Southgate: Manchester United’s Jones has been the best

SANDY, UT - JULY 17: Phil Jones
SANDY, UT - JULY 17: Phil Jones /

England manager Gareth Southgate has praised Manchester United’s Phil Jones for being the best defender, recognising his recent form for his club in the Premier League.

The central defender has stood out so far this season with Jones among other Manchester United players up for nomination for player of the month. However, Southgate was also keen on recognising the Englishman’s performances towards the end of last season as well rather than just this season.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 26: (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 26: (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images) /

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‘Not just this season, in terms of when I’ve been looking at him, but there was a long period last season where I think he’s been the best defender. He’s got very good composure on the ball, he’s got the pace and the reading of the game, he’s aggressive in his defending – which I like – and I think he’s got fantastic experience although he’s still only relatively young.’ said the English manager who was once a defender in his playing days too.

Southgate then continued, speaking on Jones’ other qualities, ‘He organises well, he competes well, so I’m delighted that we’ve been able to involve him this time and it was clear the other night [against Malta] what he brings to the team.’.

Phil has slowly but surely started to turn his previously rash challenges into more calculated, aggressive bursts and he’s received due plaudits because of his ability to do so. Not only has he begun to win over Manchester United fans but he’s also done so with Southgate too, earning a call-up and even starting to in England’s game vs Malta.

Gareth was also somewhat correct in his assessment of Jones’ experience. The former Blackburn Rovers man is in his 7th season at Manchester United at the tender age of 25. While this is a surprising number, it’s more surprising how he’s only made 125 appearances during that time. Some players notch up 40 appearances a season but the centre-back averages less than 20 a season.

Not a horrible average but one would expect more from someone who seems to have been around the top level of football for ages. Injuries certainly have taken their toll on his game time but if he has truly shaken them off this season then Phil may yet be on his way to completing 30+ appearances for the first time at United.

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If he does so then it will be tough for Southgate to ever exclude him from an England side begging not only for a leader but also for a true top central defender. The national team have lost both Ferdinand and Terry over the past decade amongst other greats; can Jones reach the same heights on both, club and international stage?