Phil Jones has grown in maturity in 18 months at United and has looked more confident and commanding in his favoured centre-half role this season. But while he is happy for Sir Alex to utilise his versatility, he hopes it won’t detract from his true calling at the heart of the Reds’ defence.
Jones was excellent in a central defensive position alongside Chris Smalling against Fulham in the 4-1 FA Cup fourth round win on Saturday, and yet he also stood out in a typically rampaging midfield role against Tottenham in the league.
The 20-year-old knows which position he prefers, saying: “I have said all along that [centre-back] is where I feel most comfortable. I understand and read the game better there. But wherever I am asked to play I will play there.”
Asked if promising midfield displays might prove detrimental to those long-term aims, he joked: “Yes, I kind of shoot myself in the foot a bit. But I am at Manchester United and I love playing for this club and I am happy to play anywhere.”
Few clubs in world football can rival United’s broad range of talents in that position; with the experience and wily knowhow of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, the consistency of Jonny Evans and the burgeoning promise of Smalling and Jones. That is precisely why Jones will take minutes when and where he can get them.
“I didn’t have a great start to the season but hopefully I can push my way into the side now and get some games under my belt,” he told PA Sport ahead of Wednesday’s Barclays Premier League clash with Southampton. “They are a good team irrespective of whether they have got a new manager or not. They have got some good players in the squad. We will have to be wary of that.”