Fernando Hierro’s words on Manchester United and England defender Phil Jones. These kind words followed on from England boss Fabio Capello’s admission that he believed Jones had the similar qualities of Hierro and Italian legend Franco Baresi. However, United and England face the problem of finding a position for Jones, because of his magnificent versatility.
Jones himself has openly admitted that his desired position is centre back and he hopes to develop his talent at the heart of the backline for both United and England. The 19 year old’s progression has been astounding so far with him making his England debut and joining one of the best clubs in the world for £16.5m in the space of three months. Ferguson has no qualms with playing him in any of three positions: central defence, central midfield and right back. Jones has showed in the away fixture with Bolton and the recent England friendly against Sweden that he can maraud from deep and provide for his teammates, as well as create opportunities for himself.
His other ability is tackling. Jones flies into any challenge, puts himself on the line and usually reaps the rewards of the ball. Bravery is commonly associated with the 19 year old and Ferguson can rely on Jones to provide a match-winning block or tackle when needed.
David Luiz has been criticised recently for the way he loses focus and positioning whilst making his runs, but Jones does not have the same problem. He can perform a run to good ability and if he happens to lose the ball, he will immediately retreat back to position and regroup.
Recent speculation surrounding the United future of defender Rio Ferdinand could allow Jones to play more games at centre half for United this season. With Chris Smalling’s positive performances as right back for United, Jones is the perfect partner for Nemanja Vidic. The United captain is particularly aggressive in his play and with Jones’ ability to play the ball on the floor, the former Blackburn man evokes memories of a young Ferdinand and Vidic partnership from the 2006-2008 era at Old Trafford.
Jones’ talent level is much more developed than Ferdinand’s was at this same level whilst he was at West Ham United. The 19 year old’s best position seems to be at centre half, where he can bring in all his attributes together to one effective place. A downside for Jones will be that he is not able to continue his marauding runs towards the box, but Ferguson will be able to mould Jones into an England international for the next 15 years.
Hierro’s statement is completely true. Jones does not look like slowing down any time soon and if his astronomical development continues, United and England could be looking at developing one of the future England captains and one of the best central defenders in world football.
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