Sir Alex Ferguson has heaped praise on the talent of Phil Jones, calling him “an animal for football” ahead of the derby on Monday.
Speaking with Inside United, Ferguson said: “Jones is going to be a fantastic player, his talent is unbelievable.
“Yes [his best position is centre-back] but you could play him anywhere. I think you could play him centre-forward! He’s just that type of player, he’s an animal for football.
“He grasps the game, he understands it. Play him right-back? Brilliant. Play him centre-midfield? No problem. Play him centre-back? Terrific.”
Jones‘ versatility has certainly been a strength for United this season. His man-marking ability proved vitally important against the likes of Ronaldo, Bale and Fellaini who he forced out of the game.
And he has had equally as strong performances at right-back and centre-back. Ferguson does admit that his best position is centre-back, where Jones admits he sees his long term future, but his versatility has been vital in getting game time so far in his United career.
“He’s just one of those unusual players you get now and again who can play anywhere,” Ferguson continued.
“We’ve not had a player like him in terms of someone who can play at that performance level since, well the closest you would get would be Brian McClair.
“Now, Brian McClair was a fantastic player. He could play anywhere, McClair. I remember kidding him on once; I said to him, just go and play in the right-back area and he laughed. I said to him, ‘What are you laughing at?’ and he said, ‘Next week I’ll be centre-half.’ But that was his character, so composed about life. Nothing bothered him.”
Arguably our best centre-back over the past year, Evans has turned his United career on its head since Vidic’s injury gave him a long run of games in the first team.
“Jonny’s been really brilliant this season,” he continued.
“He’s 25 years old now and, hopefully for the next six or seven years, he could be a regular centre-back for us.
“Obviously, Rio [Ferdinand] is 34 now and [Nemanja] Vidic is 31. [Patrice] Evra is 31 so, in that sense, players like Smalling, Jones and Evans will come to the fore.”
The future for United’s defence certainly looks bright with such an array of young talent at the club and with the likes of Michael Keane also coming through the youth ranks, United will soon be spoilt for choice when it comes to defenders.