5 Possible Roles for Phil Jones at Manchester United Next Season
Phil Jones is not only a man of many faces, he also possesses many talents.
The versatile Englishman continues to rise in stock at Manchester United. His second half of the 2012/13 season was crammed with powerful, determined performances that forced many doubters to hush.
With David Moyes taking over the Old Trafford reins on July 1, it's time to consider the many ways he can utilise Jones across the coming year.
Let's start with the most obvious use of Phil Jones.
He made his name as a centre-back and believes this is his best position, as reported by The Guardian. The 20-year-old is strong, tall and has decent sprint speed, making him an all-round competitor. According to The Sun, Sir Alex Ferguson suggested Jones will become a better player than John Terry once his development is complete.
With Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic beginning to slow down, perhaps the beginning of Moyes' era is the perfect time to implement Jones in his preferred position. He can fill in for either veteran defender when creaking legs appear and can gain valuable experience alongside either player.
Although Jones is touted for a long-term future alongside Chris Smalling in central defence, it's fair to say his English counterpart isn't quite ready to step into a regular first-team place. Even so, Jones is at the point where he is definitely challenging for a place in the starting back four.
One thing threatened to repeatedly catch Manchester United out last season: pace.
Whether it was Gareth Bale skipping past Ferdinand or Sergio Aguero's burst of energy waltzing through the defence, the Red Devils had a habit of looking rather rigid when defending against quality. Alongside centre-backs who are lacking pace, both Rafael and Patrice Evra have a tendency to cause positioning problems by switching off.
Enter Phil Jones.
The former Blackburn Rovers player is extremely disciplined and thrives when carrying out specific duties. If he played anywhere along the defence, Moyes could ask him to drop deep in order to help United recover from dangerous moments.
While this isn't a necessary strategy for most games, any opposition that flaunts extreme pace could be halted by The Great Wall of Jones.
Manchester United fans are perhaps most used to seeing Jones play as a defensive midfielder. Sir Alex Ferguson used him there toward the end of the 2012/13 season and was repaid with some truly excellent performances.
Jones' endless stamina and bulk make him a natural candidate for United's currently lightweight midfield. With the likes of Tom Cleverley and Anderson struggling to consistently endear themselves to the Old Trafford crowd, Jones' displays come as an encouraging surprise.
In fact, his willingness to hunt possession and continuously chase the ball down may be wasted in defence. His Premier League pass completion rate of 85.3 percent betters Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Ryan Giggs for the 2012/13 season, but there's certainly room for his distribution to improve.
It's fair to say Jones is occasionally clumsy on the ball and has the ability to think quicker than he can move. Moyes may well deploy his starlet as a defensive midfielder, especially against physical opposition.
He was tasked with man-marking in both of these encounters. Sir Alex Ferguson deemed Jones worthy of taking both Marouane Fellaini and Cristiano Ronaldo out of each game; a task he managed for the most part.
While Fellaini failed to inspire the Toffees to an Old Trafford win, Ronaldo eventually overcame Jones' threat with a stunning header at the Bernabeu—although it's fair to say he wasn't marking the Portuguese icon at this point. For the rest of the contest, the former United superstar struggled to make an impression.
Jones' disciplined attitude allows him to maintain focus on a single threat for 90 minutes. His physical presence often forces the opposition into rushing and his aerial prowess competes with the best. He may not always win the ball cleanly, but playing Jones in this role can nullify the other team's key players and allow United to push on with an attacking game.
Phil Jones has energy to burn.
He is the kind of player who wants to be involved in every phase of the game, whether it be defending his goal or bombing up the pitch for a last-minute winner. During the final few matches of last season, Ferguson allowed the Englishman to roam more freely.
Jones could be seen closer to Antonio Valencia and Robin van Persie, entering the final third with greater regularity. Although he failed to score last season, Jones could be used as a box-to-box midfielder who rampages between the lines.
Michael Carrick rarely enters the attacking third, so if United lose the physicality of Rooney, Jones may be asked to fill in the gaps. He'll certainly be looking to notch up a few goals next season, no matter which position he is asked to play.
Where should David Moyes use Phil Jones next year? Let me know in the comments section and be sure to follow me on Twitter right here:
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