New Manchester United defender Phil Jones could start Monday’s first home game against Spurs following injuries to Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Rafael, and his impressive display as a substitute at West Brom. Not the easiest of home debuts for a 19 year old against one of the anticipated title challengers. Jones and 23 year old Jonny Evans are likely to line up at the heart of the defence with Chris Smalling in at right back. Jones will be hoping for a better experience than his maiden Old Trafford appearance with former club Blackburn Rovers as the youngster recalled in this interview with manutd.com’s Nick Coppack
How did you feel when you signed for United? It’s one of those things that sends shivers down your spine. Putting pen to paper at Manchester United is a massive thing for me and my family. I’m here now and I’ve got to prove I’m good enough.
What was it like meeting Sir Alex for the first time? It can be a daunting experience… It was brilliant. We talked for hours, but not necessarily about me or the club, about things in general. It settled a few nerves.
You were part of pre-season in the USA with United this year – what was different about that experience for you? The fan base. United are probably the biggest club in the world with a massive support, which is different. Also, going toAmerica on tour and turning out against teams that you wouldn’t normally play was a great experience.
Is it only when you get to the club that you really realise how big United are? Of course. I don’t think you can really picture what it’s going to be like. You can’t imagine it but once you’re actually here it is a bit of a whirlwind experience until you start settling down with the players. I feel comfortable with them now.
Do you already feel at home at a big club like this? Yes. You can’t afford to sit back and watch time pass by, you’ve just got to get on with it and I’m delighted to be part of such a fantastic club.
Was pre-season particularly important to you because you’re at a new club? There was that element. At a new club you want to prove to the players that you’re good enough for this team, and that’s what I want to do.
Did knowing a few of the lads already make settling in a bit easier? It’s very helpful. I know Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Chris Smalling, who are all great lads that I’ve played withEngland at under-21 level. It’s been a pleasure to work with them, and they’ve told me all about the club and how good it is.
How beneficial is it to have played alongside Chris Smalling for England? That will only help. We’ve done really well together withEngland and kept quite a few clean sheets. We communicate well and read each other’s game, which is a good thing to have in a partnership at the back.
As a centre-back you’ve obviously got some good role models at United. They Ferdinand and Vidic are brilliant defenders. I’ve always watched those two play together and tried to model my game on them and copy things they do.
You played in midfield when you were younger. Could you do that for the Reds or are you now purely a defender? I definitely consider myself a centre half and that’s where I play my best football. I like to see the game in front of me and read the play. At Blackburn, when the manager asked me to move into midfield it was strange and I didn’t expect it. It took a few games to adapt to that role and the positions to take. If I was asked to do that here I’d feel comfortable with it.
You grew up as a Blackburn supporter, but you must have admired the Reds while you were growing up. Very much so. I’ve watched the DVDs of the Premier League years and seen the amount of trophies they would pick up at the end of the season. United have always been a fantastic team year-in, year-out, and I’m sure it will be the same this season.
What do you remember about your games for Blackburn against United? They were difficult! Obviously you get a tough game whenever you play United but we drew 1-1 atEwood Park in May, on the day United won the title. We got a drubbing at Old Trafford earlier in the season though, we lost 7-1.
What was Old Trafford like to come to as an opposition player? I only played there once – in that 7-1 hammering! I was looking forward to it beforehand, and making sure I was fit. It’s a fantastic stadium with a great atmosphere and I was playing against some fantastic players. It’s even better now I’m playing with them.
Will Jones prove to be one of Fergusons shrewdest summer signings?