Jones: The old buzz is back at United
Phil Jones says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has rekindled a feelgood factor at Manchester United, reminding the defender of "the vibe" under Sir Alex Ferguson.
The 27-year-old centre-back is among a select group of just five Reds who played on a regular basis for the first team under Sir Alex before the club’s most successful trophy hunter retired in 2013.
Jones, Chris Smalling, David De Gea, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia all won Premier League titles in the legendary Scot's latter years in charge.
Now Solskjaer, following a hugely successful 19-match run as caretaker boss, has become United’s official permanent boss. Since stepping into the role, initially in an interim basis, the Norwegian has lifted the spirits at Old Trafford to the point that Jones is reminded of life under Sir Alex.
“I definitely feel the same sort of vibe about the place,” said the defender, after United beat Watford 2-1 in Solskjaer’s first game in full charge.
“The same... buzz. The same... I don't know, you can't really put your finger on it.
"But you can see similarities between now and back then. It's nice, it's refreshing and we're all enjoying it.
"Ole's done brilliant since he has come in for us. You can see it in the players' faces every day in training.
"But we need to make sure we keep improving. We've got a good platform to build on and hopefully we can finish strong.
“We understand exactly what he wants, what he wants from us and vice-versa and it works.
“The players are enjoying their football. It's exciting, we're moving in the right direction.
“We've got some great footballers here. We want to learn and improve and get better and we will do."
But is there an iron fist in what seems to be a velvet glove worn by Solskjaer?
“He's a manager,” said Jones. “He's been around, he knows exactly the game inside out. If we need to be told, he's got it in him to tell us.”
United were well off the pace in the fight for one of the coveted Champions League berths when Solskjaer first stepped into the breach. But now the Reds are in a battle royal with Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea for the two available spaces behind title rivals Liverpool and Manchester City.
A serious challenge next season, however, for the Premier League crown is the target.
“I don't think we're far away,” Phil continued. “I think obviously we had a poor start to the season. It's sort of like a story of two halves of the season, really.
“That [challenging for major trophies] is the vision for the players, for the staff, for the fans, everyone involved in this football club.
"It's a wonderful place to play football and that's where we want to get back to.
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“We need to knuckle down. We need to play better than we did today [against Watford], but we need to keep improving as a team.
“We’ve not got long left of the season now but let's see where we can go. Then we can recover well in the summer and have a good start to next season.
“I think the fans, the media, everyone can see what he [Solskjaer] has done and how he wants to play since he came, and I think we've shown that in quite a few games.
“It's positive and we're looking forward.”