Date: 10th June 2011 at 12:30pm
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The imminent signing of Phil Jones from Blackburn for a reported £16 million has surprised some people, including myself. £16 million for a player who only made his Premiership debut in March 2010 and has yet to make a senior England squad?

Yes, £16 million is a lot of money, even when you throw in the hyped “English premium” for transfers between Premiership clubs. But Phil Jones is a raw talent and has the potential to become a world-class player for United and England in the future, with the likes of Stuart Pearce labelling him a future England captain.

United only moved for Jones this summer because the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool were all sniffing around him, as Sir Alex reportedly wanted to wait another year but Jones’ talent and potential is too good to pass up on, and even though United need strengthening in other areas, it’s a better alternative than letting him go to another club.

Phil Jones has certainly gained some fans in his short stint in the Blackburn first team. Ex-Rovers striker Kevin Gallacher believes £16 million for Jones is a bargain, telling the BBC:

“I think he’s underpriced to be honest… He is already top quality and will only get better with the players around him at Manchester United.”

Wayne Rooney is also a fan, tweeting that, “Phil jones is a good young English player. 1 of the toughest defenders I played against last season.”

He’s definitely got potential, but where does Jones fit in United’s plans for next season?

Obviously he’s a signing for the future, and an eventual successor to Rio if and when he finally succumbs to injury. But for now, Jones isn’t needed in defence with the best centre back pairing in Europe in Rio and Vidic as first choice, and Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans backing them up.

The factor that will count in Jones’ favour is his versatility. Last season he excelled for Blackburn in the holding role in front of Chris Samba and Ryan Nelson, providing that bite and tough tackling in midfield, which was badly needed in a team that was battling relegation.

That’s where Jones can shine for United. Jones can fill that Owen Hargreaves role of sitting in front of the back four and breaking up play, something that United have badly missed in the last two seasons that Hargreaves has missed through injury.

It has been argued that Jones lacks the discipline and top level experience to step in straight away and take over the enforcer role in the United midfield, and that’s true.

But Jones is only 19, and has plenty of time to grow into that role. The main difference between United and Blackburn is that Jones isn’t needed to come in and contribute right away. United have plenty of options in the middle of the park, and Jones can deputise for the likes of Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson, Giggs and whoever else is signed this summer, until he’s ready.

That’s the key word to describe Jones – potential. Give him time to develop and learn from the best, and United could have a world-class player as a partner for Vidic or as a holding midfielder in a few years time. The £16 million price tag is a bit steep, but surely it’s better than having to pay £25 million a year’s time or losing him to your greatest rivals.

What do you think? Where will Jones fit in the United team for next season?