Coming into the summer transfer window, the expectation among most was that it’d be quite a busy summer at Manchester United, and so far, it looks very much like that will be the case, with United hitting the ground running even with Fergie on a well-earned holiday.
However, what was not expected was that United would shell out eight figures for a young and relatively unproven English center back only a year and a half after shelling out eight figures for another young and relatively unproven English center back.
With other areas, like keeper and the center of midfield, being of much more priority this summer, and with United’s recent (lack of) spending habits in mind, it would seem a little curious to put a whole lot of money on a whole lot of potential.
But it makes perfect sense, and for all that United might do this summer (and from the looks of it at this point, that will be quite a lot), United’s big investment on Phil Jones could be the best bit of business in the bunch.
In the world of right now, right now, right now that we live in, it’s understandable to immediately look at any sizable investment in terms of its immediate impact and little else. It’s not always right to do so, but it’s understandable.
Will this move justify the investment right off the bat? That’s where it loses some people because normally when you spend big money on a defender, young or old, English or not, you more often than not expect him to be a first-choice guy from the start. But unless Ferdy or Vidi both get felled by long-term injuries or abducted by aliens who support one of our rivals, that won’t be the case for a few seasons yet.
Then again, we didn’t get him to be ‘the man’ immediately, or the season after, or perhaps even the season after that one, if our incumbents have much to say about it.
True enough, interest from a couple of our fiercest rivals in Arsenal and Liverpool helped hasten United’s decision to make a move for Jones, but the fact that United did so is an indication of just the kind of talent he is and will be. Put simply, if you can spend £17m on someone who will be an anchor for your back line for at least a decade, then there’s no reason to let immediate (lack of) need get in the way of a decision, because when you look at the bigger picture, £17m is one hell of a bargain.
When you establish yourself as a starter for a Premier League club at only 18, it’s safe to say the future holds a lot of promise. And from all accounts, Jones has promise by the ton. He’s currently strutting his stuff for England’s U-21 team at the European U-21 Championships, but not only is the step up to the senior team likely to come sooner rather than later, he’s been touted by many as a potential future England captain.
It remains to be seen when Fergie will call it a day (not looking like anytime soon, if you ask me) and who will follow him on the touchline, but he’s certainly working to ensure that United are in an excellent position when he does. That’s especially the case at the back, as our back four post-Ferdinand, Vidic, and Evra could now be all but set. Early returns on the da Silva twins and Chris Smalling have been excellent, and if Fabio and Rafael can overcome their current fragility, United will have two top-class fullbacks and perhaps England’s first-choice center back pairing. Not a bad thought, is it?
And while Jones won’t be the man at the moment, that doesn’t mean he won’t make his presence felt early on. Along with the opportunities that Champions League and domestic cup matches provide, Rio needs a regular rest, and having two assured and reliable fill-ins will allow both he and Vidic to be rested when needed (or wanted) in order to have them both in top shape for the most important matches.
There will be skeptics until Jones repays United’s investment in full and a few times over, and that’s perfectly reasonable. But it’s an investment that wouldn’t have been made without the belief that he’d do just that, and from the looks of it, he’ll do that and then some.