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The Renaissance of Phil Jones

A mere month ago, Manchester United fans were salivating at the potential of seeing new signing Victor Lindelof paired with incumbent center back Eric Bailly. For the past year, critics (myself included), preached time and time again how Manchester United would never compete unless a ball playing center back was brought on to partner with Eric Bailly. So, after starting the season undefeated with three clean sheets and ten goals, one would think that the combination of Lindelof and Bailly is going rather well, right? Actually, no. Lindelof hasn’t seen the pitch yet. The blame can’t be put on him, it squarely rests on one of the more experienced players within the team: Phil Jones.

The player whom was once deemed as possibly being “The best player to ever wear a United shirt”, by Sir Alex Ferguson, Phil Jones has had somewhat of a performance revolution. He’s started in every game this season next to Eric Bailly and the duo haven’t allowed a goal yet. It’s quite remarkable, especially considering Jones was essentially written off in the last few years.

When purchased by Sir Alex Ferguson, Jones was deemed to be a sure thing. He was supposed to succeed Rio Ferdinand in the back line and continue Manchester United’s winning ways. Unfortunately, a vast array of injuries has derailed his career. When he does play, he leaves everything out on the field and brings nothing but respect to the Red Devils kit. Though, his tough play is surely to blame for his injury history. Jones has the capability of playing any of the back four positions, as well as center defensive midfield. However, this season he has been a seemingly automatic selection next to Bailly in the back of the formation.

While traditional wisdom says that an athletic and fast center back such as Bailly must be partnered with a less aggressive and more level-headed ball playing teammate, Jones and Bailly have changed that perception. Both are equally athletic and throw their bodies into every tackle. Neither one is really great on the ball or posses the ability to send a cross over the pitch. Yet, something has changed with Phil Jones’ play. His age and experience has seemed to instill a sort of patience within his play. The bullish, slide tackling, mistake driven player seems to be gone. Instead, is a level-headed player with the ability to unleash his chosen aggression while maintaining composure. Sometimes, he even makes a run deep into the heart of the opposing defense. But, with this squad, Manchester United doesn’t need him to be an attacker.

Phil Jones’ recent renaissance has had a domino effect on the squad. High priced Lindelof is yet to see the pitch, as is veteran Chris Smalling. The emergence of Phil Jones is a top-notch defender has given Mourinho (happily) depth in the back line. While Smalling and Lindelof are surely first team defenders, the chemistry between Bailly and Jones is too valuable to upset. Smalling is prone to inconsistency and error’s that have cost the team dearly. Jones seems to have matured past this. Another benefit of Jones coming into the side is that now Manchester United have two big, athletic and fast center backs. Breaking the bonds of the above mentioned traditions, Jones and Bailly posses the ability to make up for any mistakes on the ball by chasing down opponents or dominating in aerial duels.

Jones arrived at Old Trafford with incredible hype. After numerous seasons that produced nothing but injuries and failures, it’s refreshing to see Jones excel. In football, Strikers and attackers blossom at a young age due to speed and agility. Defenders, however, require experience over attributes. Phil Jones is only 25 and seems to finally start putting his game together. The sky is the limit for the Englishmen.

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