The stock of Phil Jones has been certainly on an upward curve since the turn of the year with the young centre-back definitely being one of United’s better players in 2013.
Sir Alex Ferguson has labelled Jones an animal for football and even claimed that he could become one of United’s best ever players, certainly high praise considering the pantheon of greats who have stepped onto the hallowed Old Trafford turf down the years.
Many dismissed the remarks as giddy exaggeration but is a distinct possibility with Jones impressing from right-back, centre-half and midfield since the turn of the year with excellent performances in big games such as Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City adding to his growing reputation as one of the best young players at Sir Alex Ferguson’s disposal.
Jones has really found some form during the last couple of months and arguably his best game yet in a United shirt came at centre-back in the derby-day defeat against City where he adopted an aggressive style that complimented Ferdinand’s calm and measured approach.
But it isn’t just at centre-back where he has impressed. The recent 1-1 draw at the Emirates saw the 20-year-old revert to a midfield role alongside Michael Carrick and he was once again impressive with his box-to-box, combative style proving really effective.
His surging late runs into Arsenal’s penalty area saw him carve out a number of decent opportunities and he was unlucky not to score, something which he recently bemoaned.
“Goal scoring is something I need to work on,” Jones admitted.
“On Sunday, the first chance was easier, I think I should have put that one away. The second chance was a bit more difficult. If it had been in the air for a couple more seconds, I might have got on the end of it with a cleaner connection.
“I want to add goalscoring to my game. Scoring goals is probably something I need to work on. Hopefully, I can get one before the end of the season.”
Jones has scored just twice for United since his move in 2011 – a crucial strike away at Aston Villa and a consolation goal in Basel during United’s ill-fated Champions League qualification campaign.
After title heartbreak last season, Jones‘ horrified facial expression at the Stadium of Light featured in many national newspapers for days after the dramatic conclusion to the Premier League.
And Jones admitted he was quite understandably elated this time around with United capturing title #20 with consummate ease.
He continued: “Winning the league is obviously something you dream of as a kid. It’s going to be an amazing day when we lift the trophy.”
Some are still unsure as to what Jones’ best position is with him enduring a mixed time in all three roles he has featured in during his first two seasons at United.
But the players versatility is a massive asset to the club with a few perhaps less talented players such as John O’Shea and Quinton Fortune forging long and prosperous careers thanks to their innate ability to play in multiple positions.
Jones is certainly a very talented player with his technical and physical abilities already excellent. He has admitted in the past that long-term he seems himself at centre-back and and impressive showings against City and Villa suggest little to the contrary.
But despite this, he maintains he is happy to fill in wherever, and enjoyed Sunday’s ferociously contested engine room battle.
“It was good to be in the thick of it in midfield. I enjoy playing, whether it was right-back, centre-back or in midfield,” said Jones.
This year, Jones has showed just why Ferguson said he could be one of the United greats and with his first Premier League title under the belt, he is only set to get better next season.
Will Phil Jones be United’s greatest ever player?