Manchester United won their much coveted 19th league title last season, yet the season ended in agony and pain as Sir Alex’s men got a reality check when they were outclassed by Barcelona at Wembley. Although the desire and will to succeed does not seem to diminish in Sir Alex, United fans know and fear deep down in their hearts that the end of Fergie’s era is not too far.
The Red Devils have already once suffered the bitter consequences when the great Sir Matt Busby retired and the club was relegated within five years of him stepping down. The current manager is also aware of this fact and this is, perhaps, the last team he is building to pass onto his successor. The Glazers are also willing to help, or so it seems, as they have provided the money to buy new players. Sir Alex has already bought two new players in Phil Jones and Ashley Young with De Gea’s arrival also looking imminent.
Here is a closer look at the first of those signings – Phil Jones.
Phil Jones was born on February 21st, 1992 in Preston, Lancashire. He joined the Blackburn youth team at a tender age of ten and has been part of their academy ever since till he signed a professional contract before the 2009-10 season. His rise with Blackburn was very steep as he signed a two-year professional contract with the club at the age of 17 and played 12 games in his first season for the club. Less than one year into his first season with Blackburn, the club offered him another contract which Jones duly signed keeping him at the club for five years. In the second season, Jones became a regular for the team as he played in 28 games in all competitions despite being injured for almost five months.
His impressive play has not gone unnoticed as he has been an integral member of the England youth teams and played alongside new team-mate Chris Smalling in the recently concluded U-21 European Championships in Denmark.
One for the future!
If defending is an art, Jones is on his way to emulating the likes of Picasso. The Englishman is a natural and possesses all the attributes needed to master the craft – great positioning, quick reflexes et al. He reads the game very well and with his quick pace, he is normally very good at cutting out dangers posed by opposition strikers. His biggest strength, though, is his good ball control and good passing ability which makes him double up as a defensive midfielder as well.
His courage is also one of his prized assets as he is not shy of going in for 50-50 tackles. Also, his leadership skills were visible on the pitch as he was often seen organizing the defence for Blackburn despite the presence of Christopher Samba alongside him.
One thing which is lacking for Phil Jones, as is the case with any young player, is his inexperience and the fact that he has not been tested on the big stage. Although he has proved his worth at Blackburn, it is a different ball game altogether when it comes to playing for Manchester United where good work counts as expected and mistakes are highlighted many folds. But with Vidic and Ferdinand as senior defenders in the squad and Sir Alex as the manager, Jones would not find a better school to improve his skills.
Expectations At United:
With Ferdinand and Vidic still going strong, Jones, in all probability, is a signing for the future. Reported to be a next year target for United, Sir Alex made a move for the talented youngster this year with Arsenal and Liverpool showing interest. This might turn out to be a blessing in disguise as Jones would get a chance to settle into the squad and evolve as a player under the guidance of one of the best central defensive partnerships in Europe.
Jones would be used as a bit part player this season with Sir Alex giving him games in the Carling Cup as part of his policy to rest senior pros. However, Jones’ ability to play in midfield might be utilized by the manager but that remains to be seen during the season.
Jones could yet be another one of those astute signings by Sir Alex as he also fits the bill for the homegrown player rule which cannot be neglected in the years to come, especially since United are left with only Giggs out of all those players from the golden generation. Also, Jones is still only 19 years of age and hence, it would not be before the next couple of seasons when he has to be named in the 25-man squad for the league.
If Jones turns out to be the player that is expected, United’s defence looks to be sorted out for the next decade, taking into consideration, the promising form shown by Smalling last season and the rise of Da Silva brothers in the full back’s positions. However, the signing of Jones signals the end for Wes Brown and also puts the future of Jonny Evans in doubt.
United fans are already in love with the attitude shown by the youngster as has shown his willingness to fight it out with the big boys in order to earn his place in the starting XI. With offers from Liverpool and Arsenal where he would have had more playing time, Jones chose to sign for the Red Devils as he recognized the opportunity of learning his trade under the astute guidance and discipline of Sir Alex that would make him a gem.
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