By Lee Savery
England Under-21 international Phil Jones is nearing a move to Manchester United from Blackburn Rovers, for a reported, fee of £16 million. The player had attracted the top clubs in England even going as far as discussing a move to Arsenal with Arsene Wenger himself before rejecting him citing his desire to join the Red Devils. Harry Redknapp admitted trying to sign him and described Jones “as quite a player” and considered the deal a coup for United.
It seems Sir Alex Ferguson has pulled off another good signing to add to his long list of superb captures. Phil Jones well and truly broke into the Rovers’ first team last season making 27 appearances in all competitions to establish himself as one of the best young, English, defenders in the Premier League. He also played in midfield, showing that tenacity of a good holding midfield player. This gives Sir Alex some more versatility to the squad considering the recent departure of the most natural holding midfield player in the squad, Owen Hargreaves. Although his departure was inevitable.
The press have written glowing reviews about Jones as a person. He is seen as a very devoted footballer with him even studying “the art of tackling” to help make himself as good a defender as he knows he can be. Several press outlets also have quotes on him saying he would love to be the next Rio Ferdinand. What a perfect place for him to realise that dream, being alongside the former England captain at Old Trafford.
Jones has already proven he is not phased by facing the big teams. He was arguably Blackburn’s best player against United in the recent meeting at Ewood Park. His tough tackling was there for all to see with Wayne Rooney even saying Jones was one of the toughest opponents he had played against. I was left with a similar impression.
In my view, we now have two of the brightest young defensive talents in the country. With Chris Smalling already at the club Phil Jones’ arrival now imminent, we will get an early glimpse of possible future Man United defensive partnership during the UEFA Under-21 European Championships that start this weekend. The future is looking bright for United, Jones will be the first signing of many in what is set to be the busiest transfer activity the club have been involved in for a few years. Phil Jones is an impressive first signing.
At this point I asked a Blackburn fan to share his thoughts.
Jones has the potential to be a World Star. I personally feel he will be England Captain in the next few years. The way he reads the game is fantastic (see his performance VS United when he didn’t give Hernandez a sniff). He’s got pace and isn’t shy of a tackle. His stint in midfield I feel has also improved his attacking game. You’ll often see him making surging runs into the opposition area. Very calm and composed, great in the air and the fact he’s only 19 just makes him an outstanding player.
Jones is capable of playing in midfield and in defence. Having had the pleasure to see him in both positions, you will notice defence is his favoured position. He’s your traditional English centre back. He loves a challenge and won’t be pressurised by the occasion (he was awarded man of the match on his debut VS Chelsea facing Drogba). Huge pressure being 18 year old at the time and facing then, arguably the best attacker in the world he stayed strong, positioned himself well and was very composed. He hasn’t looked back since and confidence is always growing. He will also put his body on the line making several blocks and clearances in vital positions. Not scared to shout at other seniors too if they’re in the wrong, something I found very impressive.
His future lies in central defence in my opinion. He has often been exposed in the middle due to his lack of creativity and I feel this will be a greater challenge when facing better quality oppositions. At Rovers, we were defending a lot and United don’t often come across teams that attack them. Usually teams park the bus and if that was the case, then Jones would be wasted in midfield. So for me, defence all day long.
I am a little surprised Jones never chose Arsenal, as that is the only team where I see him gaining a starting position. However, their lack of trophies and the fact he would have to move away from his home may have made that decision easier. Joining United we all know he will see some form of silverware in his career, and with Rio not getting any younger, he probably sees himself playing in the first team sooner rather than later. He will probably start the season on the bench for Premier League games and gradually introduced in cup games (FA Cup, Carling Cup and a few Champions League games) in a similar manner to Smalling last season. He should be the first replacement should Rio or Vidic get injured or suspended. Overall, playing limited number of games, something he won’t enjoy.
I am very disappointed at Jones for leaving so soon. Hope he does have a fantastic career and continues to respect Rovers whenever he does come down to Ewood. Playing only 35 games for us and receiving £16m+ for him, many will say it’s a tad expensive. However, not many United fans will have seen this young lad play, and ALL Rovers fans value him at a higher price. You are getting a bargain and wish him all the best in the future.
Daniel Wilkinson added:
He’s quite easily the best player we have produced through our youth system in recent years. Whilst I resent him for leaving so soon and not devoting at least one more season to us (the club that nurtured him), it’s understandable that he wants his career to progress. I think that is a good reflection of his nature on the pitch. He is extremely determined. His mentality and reading of the game is exceptional for his age and he has the physical capabilities to compliment this. On his debut he singlehandedly brought us back into the match. We conceded early on to a strong Chelsea side bit around twenty minutes in Jones made three crunching tackles in the space of thirty seconds. I have never seen an event other than a goal get the crowd going so much.
He has been exceptional for us and I for one want him to do well. I just hope people remember where he came from, not likely. When he is England Captain he will have been born a United player. Guaranteed.
And be wary of him saying he’s a United fan. He said that about Blackburn!
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