Phil Jones was the difference tonight as his goal gave Manchester United a 1-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk that secured top spot in the group going into the UEFA Champions League knock-out stages.
The 21-year-old led by example in his makeshift central midfield role alongside Ryan Giggs and was unquestionably United’s man of the match on the night.
His first half performance was slow and steady but he exploded onto the second half. He was everywhere. From fine tackles, interceptions and intelligent positioning to scoring the only goal with a sumptuous volley, Jones was a real force in midfield for United.
However, David Moyes has indicated that Jones’ time as a central midfielder is only a temporary measure until midfield reinforcements are brought to Old Trafford.
Speaking after the game, he said: “He’s young and doing great. I think his future will be at centre-half but he’s doing a job for us in midfield just now.”
Although Jones has insisted he wants to be a centre back and Moyes clearly agrees, Jones could easily have a future as a genuine box to box midfielder if performances like tonight are anything to go by.
United had lost two games in a row going into tonight and the team’s performance in the first half was tentative, so Jones grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck in the second was exactly what the doctor ordered and it isn’t hard to see why he is considered as a future captain for club and country after that show tonight.
We need players to stand up and take account this season because of the pressure the club is under. Jones did precisely that.