Phil Jones relishing Manchester United title push
Tuesday 03 January 2012
Phil Jones may have been critical of Manchester United's performance against Blackburn on New Year's Eve but he is still loving life at the Barclays Premier League summit.
Despite that shock defeat at Old Trafford, United remain on course to top the mini-table covering all five games of the festive period.
Having been given a reprieve by Manchester City's shock defeat at Sunderland, the Red Devils will remain in the thick of the title battle if they have better fortunes than their neighbours when they head to the north east to face Newcastle tomorrow.
To enjoy such experiences is one of the major reasons why Jones left Blackburn last summer.
And whilst helping his hometown club secure their top flight status on the final day of last season represented a fulfilling achievement he will never forget, Jones concedes it is far better to be involved at the other end of the table.
"I am excited," he said.
"I am loving it. It was a nice feeling to get out of trouble with Blackburn on the last day of the season. It is an even nicer feeling knowing you are at the top of the table with a fantastic chance of winning the English title."
Jones was scathing of United's performance against Blackburn but the aftermath has been full of conjecture about Wayne Rooney, and a lesser extent, Darron Gibson, both of whom watched from an executive box at Old Trafford when it had been anticipated they would be involved.
Although there has been no word from United about whether the pair will be part of Ferguson's squad for the trip to Tyneside, it would be a major surprise if they were not on the team bus given the speed with which both parties have expressed a desire to move on from the disciplinary measures invoked by Ferguson following their Boxing Day night out.
That offers the best chance of United bouncing back from their first league defeat since that 6-1 hammering by Manchester City in October.
And the response from that disaster, eight wins from nine games, leaves Jones to suggest United do have what it takes to eventually clinch title number 20.
"Never for one second did I think we weren't good enough," he said.
"The way we bounced back from the Manchester City game was unbelievable.
"Not everyone thought we would. But that is what Manchester United does best; prove people wrong.
"When the chips are down, you see who the real fighters are. That is the beauty of Manchester United."
Jones emerged a winner on his only previous trip to what is now known as the Sports Direct Arena and will be part of a Red Devils contingent that has won on seven out of their last nine visits, drawing the other two, although they were held at Old Trafford in November.
"It can be a daunting place to go," said Jones.
"It is a great atmosphere. They have passionate fans and it will be another difficult game."
United will not have much chance to rest after tomorrow night's game given the weekend brings that eagerly-anticipated FA Cup third round clash with Manchester City.
However, it does represent a punctuation mark in the Premier League season given they will not be in action again until January 14, when Ferguson's men take on Bolton.
Not everyone is a fan of the festive programme. Arsene Wenger has long railed against the crush of fixtures and Andre Villas-Boas has wasted little time making his objections known.
Jones may still be a teenager but he is old enough to know it is a traditional part of the English game that is not going to change.
"Everyone has a little bit of a moan about how many games there are around Christmas but the beauty of it is that everyone is in the same position," he said.
"We just have to get on with it.
"It is about how we manage and cope with injuries.
"We have been a bit unfortunate but we are still up there fighting with the best."
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