Jones: We'll all get chances to impress
Phil Jones believes the UEFA Europa League will provide plenty of opportunities for Manchester United to prove the squad has strength in depth.
In an exclusive interview with United Review, the official match programme for Thursday's home clash with FC Astana, the 27-year-old said that the continental competition will allow more members of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's group to get valuable minutes on the pitch.
"There are players like myself, who’ve not been involved as much, but it’s a chance for everyone to get games," said Jones.
"It’s a busy period when all the games come thick and fast, when you need a big squad with everyone ready to fight. But it's a period we relish."
The big squad Jones refers to now includes Academy graduates like Angel Gomes and James Garner, and he admits to being impressed by their progress.
“There are some unbelievably talented young players coming through,” said the experienced centre-back.
“That’s something we should all be excited about. Hopefully, it [the Europa League] is a great chance for them to showcase what they’re about.
“If they do what they do in training and in the games that I’ve seen them play, they’ll be absolutely fine.”
2019/20 is Jones’ ninth season at Old Trafford after arriving from Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 2011. At the time, our squad included the legendary defensive duo of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, as well as Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling, and the centre-back's attitude to competing for places is the same as it was back then.
“Since I came to this club – when I walked through the door – I knew I wasn’t just going to walk into the team and expect to play. Today’s no different,” Jones added.
“Of course, I want to play, but we’ve got some quality players in that position. I’ll wait for my chance and, hopefully, I’ll get a chance sooner rather than later.”
New signings Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire have slotted straight into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first-choice defensive line-up and Jones thinks both players have enjoyed a great start to life at Old Trafford.
“Aaron’s come in and settled in well and, likewise, Harry. He carries a bit more experience than Aaron but they’ve helped a lot.
“Aaron’s up and down [the pitch], his tackling’s probably some of the best I’ve seen, and no one wants to go past him. You see players now stopping, turning around and going the other way, so that’s a credit to him.
“Harry’s got the international experience. He’s a big, strong defender who has helped us and I’m sure he’ll be a great addition going forward.”
While Matteo Darmian departed over the summer and Smalling has joined Roma on loan for the season, Axel Tuanzebe’s return means we have no shortage of options at the back.
The 21-year-old made his first United appearance since 1 January 2018 in Saturday’s win over Leicester and Jones thinks further action in a red shirt is inevitable over the coming weeks and months.
“Axel’s a terrific young player. I’ve known him for a while now, he’s been in the reserves and worked his way up and deserves his chance.
“He was out on loan last season at Villa, did terrifically well for them and helped them get promoted to the Premier League, so he’s experienced enough now and he’ll get his chance and he’ll take it.”
You can read the full interview with Phil in this Thursday's United Review, the official programme for our match against FC Astana. All supporters can buy tickets for our UEFA Europa League home games by visiting manutd.com/tickets or calling 0161 868 8000.
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