What Manchester United's Champions League Team Told Us About Arsenal Clash

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentNovember 7, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11:  Phil Jones of Manchester United in action during the FA Community Shield match between Manchester United and Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium on August 11, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Had Phil Jones glanced at his fellow substitutes at the Anoeta Stadium in San Sebastian on Tuesday, he would have maybe noticed his new-found status within the Manchester United squad.

David Moyes picked a team to play Real Sociedad this week with one eye on a bigger game against Premier League leaders Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Sitting pretty at the top of Group A in the Champions League, United could afford to slip in Spain. Meanwhile, after three defeats and two draws from their first 10 games, there's no more margin for error in the Premier League.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 09:  Phil Jones of Manchester United celebrates with Robin van Persie at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium on December 9, 2012 in Manchester, Eng
Clive Mason/Getty Images

With that in mind, Moyes left Robin van Persie on the bench against Sociedad to keep him fresh for when his former team-mates roll into town. It took him three minutes to score against his old team at Old Trafford last season, and Moyes could do with a similarly quick start on Sunday.

The other name left off the team sheet on Tuesday was Jones. 

The 21-year-old was a surprise choice in midfield at Fulham last Saturday, especially when it was at the expense of £27.5 million summer signing Marouane Fellaini.

Fellaini got the nod in northern Spain, in what was his first start for almost a month. The Belgian began to look comfortable in a United shirt for the first time until he was sent off in the final minutes for committing one foul too many.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02:  Scott Parker of Fulham is closed down by Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones of Manchester United  during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Manchester United at Craven Cottage on November 2, 2013 in London, Engla
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Fellaini's performance has put him in contention for a place in the team to play Arsenal, especially if Moyes decides to combat Arsene Wenger's five-man midfield with five of his own.

In any case, fit and rested, Jones is in pole position to resume his own midfield duties.

Moyes favoured his mobility and energy over Fellaini's physical presence against Fulham, and those qualities will be even more important against Arsenal's impish playmakers.

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05:  Olivier Giroud and Mesut Oezil (R) of Arsenal attend a training session at London Colney on November 5, 2013 in St Albans, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

Wayne Rooney will be asked to sit on Mikel Arteta when United don't have the ball to stop the Spaniard feeding Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky.

Jones and Michael Carrick—should he recover from an Achilles injury in time—will be tasked with stopping Arsenal's front four from supplying Olivier Giroud.

Should Jones start ahead of Fellaini against Arsenal, it would represent a new order in United's midfield.

Moyes searched all summer for a midfield partner for Carrick. The man he was after might have been there the whole time.