Phil Jones- Evoking the Memory of John O’Shea Since 2010
Ever since he signed for Manchester United in 2011 for £17 million, Phil Jones has been a formidable presence on the pitch- regardless of his position. He has played both across the back line and through midfield. When there has been a hole to fill, Phil Jones has filled it.
Not since John O’Shea wrote himself into Manchester United folklore has a player been asked to play such a variety of roles as Phil Jones. Bar a Figo nutmeg, a Kop winner and two goals in a Champions League semi-final (3 rather large omissions), the Lancastrian has basically been O’Shea’s English equivalent in the side over the last few years.
It is therefore unsurprising that many have said that Jones is a victim of his own success. His ability to play in a variety of positions has hindered his ability to master one particular role and may easily cost him a starting role at the World Cup.
Thankfully, David Moyes has seemed keen- when the squad permits- to use him as a centre back where he has done very well indeed this season and, when Vidic and Ferdinand depart this summer, it is likely to be where he stays.
However, before he can relax and take his rightful place in the centre of defence, it is likely that he may have to produce at least one more O’Shea-esque performance this season.
Playing away at the Allianz arena, Manchester United will be starved of possession by a technically superior Bayern Munich side. They are likely to toy with United, pulling them across the park from all directions in an attempt to create space and open up opportunities.
As such, Carrick will have his work cut out protecting the likes of Rio and Nemanja from wave after wave of attack and the question of who will partner him is key. As shown last Tuesday, Fellaini lacks the mobility and awareness to shepherd the back four and is much more effective- if selected in the starting XI- running around up top like a headless chicken. Similarly, Cleverley has been massively disappointing this season and Darren Fletcher still has question marks over his fitness at the very highest level.
Therefore, Phil Jones may well be the answer to Moyes’ midfield question because his ability to marshal the midfield, disrupt Bayern and then quickly distribute the ball is something United would find helpful. He is certainly not most the refined player in the team and will undoubtedly ruffle a few feathers but his energy will be needed on Wednesday.
Although he would have no man to mark in particular, like he did at the Bernabeau, Jones would be responsible for stopping the flow of balls to the likes of Robben and Ribery- something United could not stop on Tuesday night. With Goetze likely to be the most offensive Bayern midfielder- in the absence of Bastian Schweinsteiger- it would be Jones’ responsibility to limit his influence on the game.
If Jones can do that and force Bayern to stray from their natural game, United may, just maybe, have a chance of progressing to the next round of the UEFA Champions League.
How do you think United should line up on Wednesday?