Tuesday 12 November 2019

Jones: Criticism spurred us on

Phil Jones, left, and Chris Smalling performed well against a potent Liverpool attack at Anfield
Phil Jones, left, and Chris Smalling performed well against a potent Liverpool attack at Anfield

Phil Jones says public criticism of Manchester United has fuelled the team's recent revival.

United are now odds-on to qualify for the Champions League after they recorded back-to-back wins over Tottenham and Liverpool.

Such a double would have seemed impossible just a few months ago. Manager Louis van Gaal came under fire after his team put in a number of underwhelming displays.

Some of the strongest criticism came from ex-United players like Gary Neville, who compared Van Gaal's side to a pub team and Paul Scholes, who labelled some of United's play "prehistoric".

But with United now five points clear of fifth-placed Liverpool, their critics have fallen silent.

"People criticising does spur you on," Jones said.

"You are always going to get critics. We are at a massive club here at Manchester United and if things aren't going as well as they should be then there is always going to be people wanting to have a dig and a pop at you.

"We have been well aware of the criticism we have had. We are professionals and we are in a job where people have an opinion about you and they are entitled to it and we just have to get on with it.

"People can assume and predict and it is up to us to prove them all wrong. That is what the lads enjoy doing. We enjoy proving them wrong. So far we have done that."

Jones has come in for criticism himself this season, but he and Chris Smalling performed well against a fierce Liverpool attack at Anfield and the two kept 29-goal striker Harry Kane quiet in the 3-0 win over Spurs.

Jones and Smalling were identified as long-term replacements for Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic at United.

The pair were also touted as alternatives to the Ferdinand-John Terry partnership with England, but as Jones points out, they have not played together often as a centre-half pairing.

"It has been difficult for us," said Jones, who has played alongside Smalling at centre-back for England just once.

"It had been documented that me and Chris were going to be the next centre-backs at United but it has not gone how we would have liked it.

"Somebody told me the other day that we have actually only played alongside each other about four times in four seasons.

"You cannot build a partnership on four games.

"Hopefully now we have had back-to-back games together we can keep it going and keep playing well together. We complement each other well."

PA Media

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