With Manchester United set to undergo defensive changes this summer, it is time to decide if Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are good enough to remain at Old Trafford.
Jones arrived at Old Trafford in 2011 for a reported £16 million from Blackburn Rovers and has made 188 appearances to date.
In 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson said:
“Jones, arguably the way he is looking, could be our best ever player. I think Jones may be one of the best players we have ever had, no matter where we play him.
“At 21 years of age, he is going to be a phenomenal player. I think he can play anywhere on the pitch.”
However, things have not turned out as planned. His early years at Old Trafford were marked with appearances in midfield, which included a titanic display at the Bernabeu in 2013 as well as right back.
This rotation of positions restricted Jones’s development as a centre back.
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, in particular, used him predominantly centrally in defence while he has been somewhat of a trusted figure for Jose Mourinho this season.
With a consistent run of games, Jones is a very solid defender. He is strong in the tackle, a good reader of the game, athletic for a big man as well as being sound on the ball. When partnered with Eric Bailly, United looked to have an ideal partnership.
It has been when Jones has been placed next to Smalling or Lindelof in 2018 when he has struggled. He has now been placed on the injury list to add to his new year woes.
For me, I would keep Phil Jones at Manchester United. He has shown his ability.
The Times have reported this week on Everton’s interest in Jones. United need to rebuff any offers and move on other defensive casualties.
Smalling joined United in 2010 and has made 278 appearances. He has also picked up two Premier League titles.
With that experience and at the age of 28, fans would have hoped Smalling would have developed into a mainstay of the backline by now.
Smalling has failed to improve on early promise. He came into the side and played at right back often in the early years with Ferdinand and Vidic excelling in the middle.
It was Louis Van Gaal who trusted Smalling with regular games at centre back and to be fair, he played his best football in this period.
Fast forward to Smalling’s current impact and he leaves a lot to be desired. He seems to be lacking in all areas.
He is losing more physical duels than before, he is not commanding of those around him and on the ball, he just looks to move it to the full-back or the other centre back.
A more detailed look at Smalling would suggest his agility and power in his legs is not there for whatever reason.
Whatever the reason, he looks uncomfortable on the ball and seems to be close to falling to the ground consistently.
Even though he is one of the few remaining players that Ferguson signed, it is time for Smalling to move on. He has had ample time to prove himself and no more opportunities can be afforded.