Ron Atkinson hails old-fashioned partnership of Smalling and Jones in FA Cup semi-final win

by Harry Robinson

Ron Atkinson has hailed the impact of Manchester United’s defensive partnership at Wembley as the Reds came from behind to beat Tottenham Hotspur.

Phil Jones and Chris Smalling started together for the second consecutive game after the former returned to first-team football after a while out of action in Wednesday’s comfortable 2-0 victory against AFC Bournemouth.

The pair looked steady for most of the game, recovering from a shaky start that engulfed the whole Man United side and saw Spurs take the lead after just 10 minutes.

Former-United boss Atkinson, who guided the Reds to an FA Cup in his time in charge before Sir Alex Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford, was impressed by the English pairing.

“They stood their ground, they had to put blocks in,” Atkinson told MUTV.

“I can only remember Harry Kane getting one sort of half a shot away. That in itself is full credit to them.”

Atkinson said that while Jones and Smalling don’t quite have the ball-playing ability of others in the side, they did their job and understood when to release the ball.

“They did what old-fashioned defenders do,” Atkinson continued, “they headed high balls away, put their bodies on the line. And when they had it, they gave it to players who can play.”

Many United fans were worried at seeing the two start together. But they kept one of the Premier League’s best strikers, Harry Kane, quiet all night.

It was Christian Eriksen, who the midfielders are responsible for marking tightly, who threatened more from Kane, who Jones and Smalling marshalled well.

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