Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho believes Phil Jones could prove to be his perfect central defender, if only the England star can stay fit.
Sir Alex Ferguson once claimed the centre-back could become the club’s greatest-ever player, while Sir Bobby Charlton is among those to have previously compared Jones to the late, great Duncan Edwards.
Now Jones has started the Premier League season in fine fashion, prompting Mourinho to say he could be exactly what United need so long as his recent injury problems become a thing of the past.
“He’s potentially a very good player. He’s still young, he’s still at a learning age,” said Mourinho of the 25-year-old.
“But for years and years and years he was injury prone and he has a problem now. He’s complaining about an ankle problem, so he’s the kind of player where we need to have him always in our hands with a lot of care from the medical department, from the fitness coach, from my assistants, on the gym working always on prevention, on recovering.
“If we manage to have him safe, protected from injuries, I think potentially he is everything I like in a central defender.”
United have begun their Premier League campaign with three successive victories and have yet to concede a goal, most recently despatching Leicester City 2-0 on Saturday, but the manager admits it may be more difficult to replicate their current form when their Champions League challenge gets underway on September 12 against Basel at Old Trafford.
“If I have one week to prepare a match, my team is always very good. It’s always very good, because you have time to organise a week of work going through every item of the game,” Mourinho explained.
“When you start playing every two days, every three days, it’s more based on what you build during pre-season and what you build during these weeks that are not going to be repeated.
“From now, we have no more clean weeks. From now, every week has a midweek match until the moment we are out of one of the cups. So I think now my team is also the mirror of the work we are doing in clean weeks where we can train five days and go through every item of the game plan.”
United are back in Premier League action at Stoke on September 9, with former skipper Wayne Rooney and his Everton side due at Old Trafford eight days later.