When Phil Jones first broke onto the scene with Blackburn back in 2009, the 23-year-old English centre-back was quickly being touted as one of the most promising additions to the Three Lion’s back-line this country had witnessed in a long while.
A subsequent big money move to Manchester United followed, and with the former Ewood Park favourite picking up several caps within Roy Hodgson’s international set-up between then and now, it seems those initial expectations have largely been met by the defender in recent years.
However, for those who have actually watched Phil Jones do his thing out on the pitch for the Red Devils on a regular basis, such an outcome ultimately seems a great deal wide of the truth. As some of his performances throughout the 2014/15 campaign, have thus proved, the 23-year-old centre-back doesn’t quite seem all he’s been cracked up to be.
In light of such a notion then, is Jones really good enough to ply his trade as a first team starter at Old Trafford, or is this particular perspective simply too harsh when it comes to one of this country’s young, up and coming defenders?
Well, in the cold light of day, Manchester United’s determined no. 4 just isn’t at the level of quality Louis van Gaal requires going into the 2015/16 campaign. Seemingly clueless pundits can say all they want about Phil Jones and the future potential he brings to the English game, but if the player in question wasn’t born in surroundings so close to home, the British footballing community would likely have a different opinion on his overall skill-set and defensive ability.
When Phil Jones is given our full attention on a week to week basis, it really is hard to believe that Sir Alex Ferguson thought the defender would turn out to be a great prospect, and even went through with the £16 million asking price on his head. Some have even called into question a potential conspiracy surrounding recently transferred English players such as Jones, for the money being spent on these talents really does seem out of control when their actual ability is put on show.
Without wanting to launch a personal attack on the man himself, what is the 23-year-old Red Devils centre-back actually good at? Sure, Phil Jones is a very strong defender who isn’t scared of putting his body where it hurts, yet when it comes to keeping composed and organised at the back, not being beaten on the turn almost at the first time of asking, and simply playing the ball out defence affectively with his feet – the former Blackburn Rovers man often disappoints.
Costly mistakes have unfortunately become a hall-mark of the player’s game since he first arrived at Old Trafford – and as for his heavy turn of pace and distinct lack of composure across the back-line – perhaps the least said about those particular aspects of his approach, the better.
Whilst such criticism does seem slightly unfair considering Phil Jones is only 23-years-old, this saga nonetheless highlights just how far Manchester United have sunk in recent years. Ferguson’s title winning team used to be built upon the solid foundations of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic holding it down for their manager at the back, but as Louis van Gaal no longer resides over the same level of defensive quality at Old Trafford – the Red Devils have seemingly been left a great deal worse off.
Manchester United need world class ability in the centre-back positions next season if they are to truly regain their dominance of the English game. With David de Gea looking increasingly likely to move back to Madrid this summer however, such an outcome doesn’t seem too promising at this moment in time.
The Old Trafford faithful will therefore have to keep their fingers crossed for next term as 2015/16 will certainly be a make or break year for Louis van Gaal’s side. As Manchester United ultimately stand little hope of winning much silverware with Phil Jones firmly in place at the back however, perhaps LVG best start readying his excuses already, unless further defensive additions are on their way to the club this summer.
As fellow centre-back partner, Chris Smalling, also really isn’t of the top draw quality that United require going into the new campaign however, the people behind the scenes at Old Trafford have a busy transfer window in store for them if further progress is to be reached next season.