Roy Keane attacks Manchester United defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, claiming they have 'gone backwards'

Despite his selection for Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad, the Old Trafford legend believes Jones has 'gone backwards' in his development in recent months

sports news correspondent

Phil Jones has to “toughen up” if he is to stand any chance of fulfilling the lofty predictions made for his career in both an England and Manchester United shirt, according to Roy Keane.

Jones and Chris Smalling have been chosen from a struggling United side to provide defensive back-up in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad but Keane believes neither has developed enough to give the England manager any great confidence should Phil Jagielka or Gary Cahill be sidelined in Brazil. Both Jones and Smalling, Keane suggested, have “gone backwards” in recent months.

As well as the two young centre-halves, Keane also listed a number of others he believes failed at Old Trafford this season, naming Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Nani and Michael Carrick. His dissatisfaction with the current United set-up extends off the field: Ed Woodward, the chief executive, needs to “take a look at himself” over the disastrous start to the post-Ferguson era.

“They have certainly not had great seasons,” said Keane of Jones and Smalling. “I don’t think Roy Hodgson had great options in that position. Roy’s obviously seen enough of them [for them to go to Brazil] but they won’t be going into the World Cup in great form.

“Should they count themselves fortunate? They’ve probably just done about enough. If one of them had been left out I don’t think it would have been a big shock. They better enjoy it while they are over there.”

 

Asked whether the World Cup offered a potential platform for the two United players to prove themselves, Keane was withering in his response.

“They’ve had a platform for the last couple of years,” said Keane, speaking at the launch of ITV’s World Cup coverage. “We were told two or three years ago Jones was going to be the new Duncan Edwards, Smalling was this [big hope]. I’ve watched United live nine, 10 times this year and they have been none of those things. If anything I think they have gone backwards.

“They need to do a lot better if they want to cement their place at Man United and United to win trophies. Jones needs to toughen up. Every time I see him he is getting carried off. He’s got to toughen up – he’s playing for Man United.”

Roy Keane is never shy of voicing his opinion Roy Keane is never shy of voicing his opinion  

Jones, whose shoulder injury may yet keep him from Brazil, joined United from Blackburn in 2011 and made his England debut in his first season at United. His form in that debut campaign prompted Sir Bobby Charlton to compare him to Edwards. As recently as last season Sir Alex Ferguson said of Jones “arguably, the way he is looking, he could be our best ever player”. This season though, Jones has struggled for consistency – he is far from alone in that regards at Old Trafford – and to establish himself in one position, as well as enduring further troubles with injury.

Keane believes United have to rebuild extensively if they are to compete again next season but the former United captain also insists it is an opportunity to start over under a new man – he backs Louis van Gaal – that should be welcomed by all at United.

“They have to recruit in the summer,” said Keane. “It’s the spine of the team. United have come up short defensively, and in the middle of the park they have not done enough. You watch any of the teams that are winning trophies – and I’m stating the obvious – you’ve got to have a strong spine, goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and striker, and United have been short in two of those areas. It makes it very difficult to win trophies.

“There are fine lines between winning and losing. This year Liverpool have improved five per cent and United have gone back five per cent. There have been so many changes at the back, players have come in that haven’t come on. You’ve got Evra leaving, Vidic leaving – they need five or six players in: left-back, right-back, midfielder, winger. You shouldn’t be afraid of rebuilding, you should be excited about it.”

Keane thinks that United were too quick to discard David Moyes, suggesting the Scot was not given enough time to build his own side. “He had one transfer window, and it’s not always down to the manager when players don’t come in,” said Keane. “I think Ed Woodward needs to look at himself. He’s got to get deals done.”

England’s young lions ‘will have no fear’: Keane backs Shaw and Sterling to shine

Roy Keane’s suggestion that England will not feature anywhere near the business end of the World Cup does not stand out – unlike the Scotland manager Gordon Strachan selecting Roy Hodgson’s side as his dark horses – but the former Ireland captain believes young players like Luke Shaw and Raheem Sterling can still leave their mark on the tournament.

Keane pointed to the success enjoyed by the likes of Pele, Norman Whiteside and Michael Owen, who all shone in the finals while teenagers, as what can be achieved at an age when players are not encumbered by a fear of failure. “I don’t see why you can’t put young players in,” said Keane. “Young players bring you a form of energy. [They have] played in the Premier League so do you think these young players will be fearful?”

Keane also suggested England may play with more adventure than many expect under Hodgson, not least because of the number of younger players in the squad. “You have to look at the group of players you are working with,” he said. “We’re talking about going there with attacking players and England do have pace in the right areas.”

Suggested Topics
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'