The England international was deployed against Liverpool in the centre of the park, and there is a case for the versatile man to play there permanently.
Manchester United’s central midfield has been a point of contention for the club’s fans over the last number of years, with the brawn of Roy Keane and guile of Paul Scholes seemingly not replaced since the pair’s retirement.
The summer pursuit of a creative central midfield player proved fruitless, while Marouane Fellaini was signed from Everton to add a physical presence in the boiler room.
However, the Belgian has made a slow start to life at Old Trafford and has admitted to finding the going tough at the Premier League champions to date. There is no doubt that Fellaini’s abilities will make him an asset to United once he finds his feet and adjusts to the raise in standard expected of him at the club.
In the mean time, Phil Jones could well be an excellent alternative alongside Michael Carrick until Fellaini is ready to assume additional responsibility. Sir Alex Ferguson deployed the former Blackburn defender as a midfield enforcer in tough games last season, and David Moyes did likewise last night in the side’s victory over Liverpool in the Capital One Cup.
Jones has similar physical attributes to Fellaini, with his pace, fitness and tenacious tackling suggesting that he has all the attributes necessary for him to be an ideal shield for the side’s back four.
To date this season injuries have meant that Jones has been needed in defence. While Rafael was sidelined the England man was utilised at right-back, while central defence is arguably his best position and the role he has played the most of during his short senior career to date.
However, with Jonny Evans putting in a confident performance against Liverpool at centre-half and Chris Smalling looking more assured centrally than he did at full-back, United have options at the heart of their defence. Rafael is the most rounded option at right-back and as such Jones is free to be used in midfield.
In the long run Jones is likely to feature as a defender and is likely being lined up as a replacement for the ageing Rio Ferdinand. However, with Moyes having limited options in the centre of the park, the England’s international’s versatility could well be a formidable asset to give the side’s an edge in close games this term.
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