God, boy wonder, future England captain, United legend in the making – Yes 19 year old Phil Jones has been called this and much more and to be fair his performances this season merits respect, but are we going a bit overboard? Indeed Phillip has been one of Manchester United’s best players this season and the style and manner in which he plays football gives him a heroic status amongst fans almost immediately.
We as supporters of the club find heroes in players that give their heart and soul for the club, because to be fair we accept that ability is the bread and butter , whereas passion is something that sets the lads apart. This has earned young Phil many plaudits, but I still feel he has a lot to learn.
Firstly I’d like to admit that in my opinion Jones is not yet a central defender. I feel that Phil would be best used at right back which would be my first choice for him or even in centre midfield, where he provides a lot of bite. As Nemanja Vidic is unfortunately out for the rest of the season, the choices Sir Alex makes at the back are vital. My choice would be Smalling in the centre with Rio and Jones right back and when Smalling returns we’ll see what decision The Boss makes.
My opinion on where Jones plays is no knee jerk reaction to the Blackburn/Newcastle games. I’ve felt this way since much earlier in the season. The positions he takes up, leaves him under pressure against strikers as was displayed with Shola Ameobi and Yakubu most recently. Although in his defence, I wouldn’t expect the finished article at such a young age. Most of the best centre halves don’t come into prominence until at least 23/24 anyway.
For that reason I think positions other than at the heart of the United defence will be better for him for the time being. He will learn from Rio and Vidic and realise that barnstorming runs aren’t the best idea of your guarding the back four. At his age let him have his freedom and attack the opposition, but not from a position that could see him caught out. His height has been seen as a worry for fans because at 5 foot 11, he is quite small for a centre back, but if/when he matures playing in different areas of the pitch and eventually moving to the middle where the greater maturity, tactical awareness and positioning will mean height is no hindrance.
We all know he has the ability, we all know he has the right attitude, we all know he went to Manchester United for the right reasons, so let’s be patient and watch him succeed but don’t expect the finished article or be disappointed if he makes a mistake, especially if he is in a position of vital importance. We cannot call him a saviour or rely totally on him because that’s totally unfair on a footballer that is until next month a teenager.
So let us watch Phil “God” Jones blossom into a great footballer, a United and England captain, but there’s loads of time for that! For now he needs the freedom to express himself on the pitch without a major burden of holding a team together – that is a job for the older, more experienced players at Manchester United.
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