Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic – one of the most feared centre back pairings around and also one of the most consistent.
Both have been outstanding and a major reason for the success Manchester United have enjoyed recently. Yet with the signing of highly touted young centre back Phil Jones from Blackburn, and the fact that Rio’s persistent injuries have and are likely to keep him out for large parts of the season, will Phil Jones work his way into the centre back pairing and become one of the first eleven?
Much the same as with the striker debate, it cannot be discounted that we are facing a season where we will hopefully be playing in all four major competitions until their completions and have international breaks throughout, in which both Vidic and Ferdinand will be playing. Fatigue and potential loss of form is inevitable, and the squad will have to rotate at some point, allowing for a significant contribution from Jones.
As stated before injury to Ferdinand is Jones’ best hope of playing time but it’s not just injuries that can curtail Ferdinand’s playing time. It does not seem feasible to state that Rio will be able to play every minute of every game next season, and the scenario of having to rest him and ensure he can play in the vital games has to be considered as a likely possibility. Even Vidic, despite seeming so, isn’t invincible and can pick up injuries allowing for Jones to enter the team.
Jones is also a very versatile player, and has been known to play as a defensive midfielder to great effect, offering yet again another option for the team, and at a push can be employed at right back. With the departures of O’Shea and Brown to Sunderland, the purchase of Jones looks an increasingly shrewd one, with his ability surpassing either of those, or that of Johnny Evans who allowed last season to pass him by.
Jones has also had a solid Under 21 Euro’s tournament, showing both great skill and poise at centre back. Not only this but he is a natural leader, and a ‘captain of the future’ according to former captain Gary Neville. The ability and confidence he displays at such a young age is a credit to the player, and the future ahead of him seems prolific.
It cannot be disputed that buying Jones was a great move on behalf of the club, he is a young player, who whilst does need time to learn his craft and develop further, would be capable of filling in at centre back in the majority of games without cause for concern. Although he is not yet at the level to be able to oust Rio or Vidic as the preferred pair at the heart of our defence – against a Messi or Ronaldo we would want our experienced duo there- Jones is one for the future, and should take this opportunity to learn from the best. The player himself has stated that having already had a taste of Europa League action he now wants the chance to prove himself at Champion’s League level, and it is clear that sooner or later this opportunity will befall him.
Clearly he does have the potential to develop into a world class defender and both a potential England and United skipper down the line. Jones’ best is yet to come, but it would be no reason to worry if he had to play in the present, with his ability and skills shown at Blackburn, and whilst he does have a way to go to become a world class defender, he is certainly an astute signing, with the ability to play in a multitude of positions.
I have very little doubt that he will get games and make an impact in the immediate future but in the long term the he has the potential to become an instrumental United player.