Phil Jones could have a bumpy ride clinging to Ronaldo

20-year-old Manchester United defender Phil Jones is about to face the fight of his career in tonight’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Jones will likely be brought back into Sir Alex Ferguson’s team as a defensive midfielder and tasked with ‘shacking’ Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ferguson has often had one player in his team he would go to as a default man-marker in big games – previously Ji-Sung Park and Darren Fletcher – it now seems to be young Phil Jones’ job to take the opposition’s key player out of the game.

Wayne Rooney did a fabulous job of man-marking Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla who had the quietest afternoon at Old Trafford anyone could have expected. Likewise Yaya Toure never really found his feet against United at the Etihad this season for Manchester City.

The reason being that Ferguson likes to employ his tactics on the game whilst nullifying that of his opponents’. The threat of Cristiano Ronaldo will be something Ferguson knows a thing or two about and in the absence of Park and Fletcher this season, Jones is the man to fill the void in defensive midfield.

Michael Carrick can certainly do a job there when he’s asked to by his manager but Jones, being a recognized central defender, his skills are more transferrable to the role.

He’ll have to use his anticipation tonight. He’ll need to have guessed where Ronaldo is going to travel to before he gets there. He’s going to have to intercept passes to the former United star, and do his best to interrupt the supply he receives from his teammates.

He is also going to have to Ronaldo doesn’t get into positions where he had space to receive the ball in – he has to make him more difficult for his teammates to find. If he’s being man-marked out of the game, they won’t be able to find him in space and, after a while, they’ll stop passing to him as much.

Equally, Jones will have to accept that Ronaldo will get on the ball eventually tonight and, when he does, Rafael is going to have to double-up on him with Jones – no one United man should be left isolated with Ronaldo in the form he’s in – he’ll wipe the floor with them.

Jones dealt with Luis Suarez when United faced Liverpool and the Uruguayan is probably the closest Jones will have come to a player of Ronaldo’s sheer quality. I hope he’s been well briefed for this evening – Jones had better buckle-up and strap himself in for a bumpy ride on Cristiano Ronaldo’s train.

How do you think Phil Jones will get on if selected?

image: © nasmac

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