Manchester United's Phil Jones admits to being 'most comfortable at centre-half'
Signing from Blackburn has been used in various different positions
Tuesday 29 January 2013
Phil Jones admits he only has himself to blame if he fails to nail down a regular central defensive slot at Manchester United this season.
It is not so much the intense competition for places that will lead to Jones being squeezed out, but more to do with his own adaptability.
At Tottenham earlier this month, when manager Sir Alex Ferguson needed someone to shore up a midfield that was so badly exposed by Gareth Bale and company last September, Jones was the man he called upon.
At other times Jones has slotted into the right-back role when first-choice Rafael was missing.
It means the 20-year-old's appearance in central defence for Saturday's 4-1 FA Cup win over Fulham on Saturday was only the third time in seven starts this season that Jones has occupied a position he still believes is his best.
"I have said all along centre-half is where I feel most comfortable," said Jones.
"I understand and read the game better there.
"It was certainly not a problem playing at the back with Chris Smalling on Saturday. We have played quite a lot together for England Under 21s and we understand each other's game.
"In a way, I kind of shoot myself in the foot a bit by being able to play in other positions.
"But I am at Manchester United and I love playing for this club.
"I didn't have a great start to the season because of injury but hopefully I can push my way into the side and get some games under my belt, so really I am happy to play anywhere."
Jones has had a similar experience with England, although some regard his impetuosity as something of a drawback in the heart of any defence.
It is clear, though, that Ferguson regards Jones and Smalling as a defensive axis of the future, even if Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand remain the men for the present.
Further forward, United have an even greater selection dilemma.
Within the past fortnight, Danny Welbeck earned man-of-the-match accolades against Liverpool, Javier Hernandez has scored four goals and Wayne Rooney two in three games.
Yet, unless Ferguson tinkers with his formation, that trio know they are playing for a single offensive berth given 22-goal Robin van Persie is guaranteed to start the biggest games.
"All credit to Robin van Persie," said Jones.
"He has come in and been unbelievable for us this season. He has got lots of goals. But we have got other players who are just as good, as Javier and Wayne proved against Fulham.
"With four strikers firing on all cylinders at the moment the manager has got a tough decision who to play."
Little wonder Hernandez was bold enough to start talking about a treble quest.
Jones revealed Ferguson has mentioned the potential for emulating the heroes of 1999 at Old Trafford.
However, with so many matches ahead of them, the former Blackburn man feels it is slightly premature.
"The gaffer said to us before the game we had three pieces of silverware in front of us, and that is exactly what we are going out to achieve," said Jones.
"But the treble is too far in the distance. We just have to concentrate on the games coming up."
The most immediate challenge is Southampton.
Most Saints fans are still struggling to get their heads around the reasons for Nigel Adkins' abrupt dismissal, and wonder whether Mauricio Pochettino's arrival will have an adverse effect on what was shaping into an impressive campaign.
Jones can see no point in second guessing the problems such internal politics can cause.
"Southampton are a good team irrespective of whether they have got a new manager or not," he said.
"They have got some good players in the squad and we will have to be wary of that.
"This is a tough period for us but we know if we have everyone fit with our big squad we will be fine."
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