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The manager described the England international as an "animal for football" and believes the 21-year-old will by vying for a centre-back spot after shining in a variety of roles

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed the ability of versatile Phil Jones, praising the youngster's talent as "unbelievable".

The Red Devils boss parted with £16.5 million in 2011 to secure the centre-back's services from Blackburn in light of reported interest from other interested parties.

And the United boss has since been able to call upon the 21-year-old to occupy in three different positions during his time at Old Trafford - centre-back, full-back and as a defensive midfielder - and, whilst the Scot believes Jones' best position is in the heart of the defence, he believes he could excel anywhere.

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"Jones is going to be a fantastic player, his talent is unbelievable,” Ferguson told Inside United. "Yes [his best position is centre-back] but you could play him anywhere. I think you could play him centre-forward!

"He’s just that type of player, he’s an animal for football. He grasps the game, he understands it. Play him right-back? Brilliant. Play him centre-midfield? No problem. Play him centre-back? Terrific.

"He’s just one of those unusual players you get now and again who can play anywhere. We’ve not had a player like him in terms of someone who can play at that performance level since, well the closest you would get would be Brian McClair."

With Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans looking to replace the aging Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic over the coming years, competition in defence is strong at Old Trafford and Ferguson is delighted with the level of ability in his ranks.

"Jonny's been really brilliant this season," enthused the United boss. "He's 25 years old now and, hopefully for the next six or seven years, he could be a regular centre-back for us.

"Obviously, Rio is 34 now and Vidic is 31. [Patrice] Evra is 31 so, in that sense, players like Smalling, Jones and Evans will come to the fore."

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