Phil Jones explains what has helped him most at Manchester United

by Leo Nieboer

Phil Jones has noted that going up against strikers like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku in training has helped him develop at Manchester United.

The Englishman was restored to the first team by Jose Mourinho last season after not featuring for almost 11 months and formed an indomitable partnership at the back alongside Marcos Rojo.

And he has continued to impress at the back this season with three straight clean sheets against West Ham United, Swansea City and Leicester.

Speaking to the club’s official website, Jones noted that going up against world-class strikers every day provides the perfect platform from which to succeed in games.

“As a defender, you want to play against the best strikers in the world,” he said. “You want to test yourself and prove to people that you’re good enough to do that.

“Playing against these players in training every day makes me a better player. It gives me a better understanding of how to deal with these types of players when they’re on the opposing team.”

We often ignore the fact that footballers are largely shaped not by rival players but indeed their own. They face them on a daily basis, gradually picking up on their weaknesses, their habits – the very minutiae of their character on and off the pitch, really.

And Jones certainly has his work cut out at Carrington this season. The bold, direct, indefatigable approach of Romelu Lukaku requires a combination of intelligence and strength – something that serves any defender well in the Premier League – while the challenged presented by Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial requires lungs and composure above anything.

And with Zlatan Ibrahimovic nearing a return, the 25-year-old won’t be short of challenges on the training ground over the campaign.

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