Phil Jones Is Manchester United's Best Midfield Option Right Now

Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2013

It was, as they say, something of a game of two halves.

In the opening 45 minutes of Manchester United's 1-0 win over Arsenal on Sunday, the hosts were dominant. Arsenal created little or nothing, they were swamped in midfield and United had a deserved lead.

However, in the second half, Arsenal came back into it, they controlled possession in midfield much more and it was only excellent defending by United that secured the win for David Moyes' side.

There was one big difference between the two halves—and that was Phil Jones.

After Nemanja Vidic was forced to go off, Jones dropped back into defence and Tom Cleverley slotted into midfield. It's not difficult to see why Arsenal had an easier time passing the ball around when they had Cleverley—who has never knowingly played a pass forwards and is rather less imposing than Jones—to deal with.

SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 05:  New Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane looks on prior to the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Real Sociedad and Manchester United at Estadio Anoeta on November 5, 2013 in San Sebastian, Spain.
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Some have compared Jones to Roy Keane, which is slightly giddy, but he is at least talking like Keane. The Guardian reported him as saying after the Arsenal win:

"People want us to fail because we have won the league so many times. United won the league long before I was here. Everyone hates the best clubs, it is as simple as that. We enjoy that. We relish the test we get thrown at us week in, week out."

United's midfield has of course been the subject of much discussion, seemingly for the past three or four years. It was Sir Alex Ferguson's blind-spot in the final years of his reign, with a string of expensive but ill-fitting midfielders signed, persisted with then eventually discarded.

Moyes continued that fine tradition by dithering over the signing of Ander Herrera and reportedly passing up on Thiago Alcantara, although it's doubtful, given the choice between United and Bayern Munich, he would have moved to Manchester anyway.

Marouane Fellaini was recruited, but he has, to put things politely, not exactly got off to a blistering start. His time on the pitch has been relatively limited, but what time he has played has been very uninspiring, particularly for the marquee/only signing for the Premier League champions.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 10:  Manchester United Manager David Moyes celebrates at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 10, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The aforementioned Cleverley won't win you too many games, Michael Carrick hasn't hit the heights of his excellent 2012/13, Darren Fletcher is not yet fit and might never be the same again, Adnan Januzaj is not ready to play in the middle, Ryan Giggs is nearly 40 and Anderson is Anderson.

So the uncomfortable truth for United fans is that Jones is currently their best option in central midfield. And given that Jones' future is probably in defence, it's not an especially pleasant thought for Moyes and United fans everywhere.

The discussion about United's midfield has been going on for a long time. Given their most capable option at the moment is Jones, a game but limited player as a midfielder, the discussion will be going on for a little while longer yet.