Thursday 19 July 2018

Mourinho praise for Jones as United's 'clean weeks' end

Manchester United's Phil Jones in action during the match against Leicester City at Old Trafford. Photo: Matthew Peters/Getty Images
Manchester United's Phil Jones in action during the match against Leicester City at Old Trafford. Photo: Matthew Peters/Getty Images

Luke Edwards

Manchester United have yet to concede a goal this season and Joe Mourinho is delighted with the form of Phil Jones, whose displays alongside Eric Bailly in the heart of their defence means both Chris Smalling and summer signing Victor Lindelof have been left kicking their heels.

Mourinho believes that Jones has the potential to be "everything" the United manager likes in a centre-back once he steers clear of injury.

"Phil is potentially a very good player. He's still young (25), still at a learning age, but for years and years and years he was injury-prone," Mourinho said.

"He has a problem now. He's complaining about ankle problems. 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."

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho celebrates at the end of the match. Photo: Andrew Yates/Reuters
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho celebrates at the end of the match. Photo: Andrew Yates/Reuters

The United manager added: "If we manage to have him safe, protected from injuries, I think potentially he's everything I like in a central defender."

Jones will not be available for United's first game back in the Champions League next month while he serves a two-game suspension for swearing at a UEFA doping official after last year's Europa League final.

Bailly is also suspended for United's trip to Basel but Mourinho is confident that Smalling and Lindelof will be able to fill the void.

If August is your best month of the season, it is safe to assume it will have been a disappointing one by the time May arrives, but United could not have done any more than this so far and their 2-0 win over Leicester City at Old Trafford means that they go into the international break sitting top of the table.

Having been frustrated by Leicester's determined defending in the first half, United wasted a chance to go ahead eight minutes after the resumption when Romelu Lukaku's penalty was saved by Kasper Schmeichel.

Schmeichel's stop earned him a curious record: he has now saved more penalties in the league at Old Trafford than his father Peter, the former United great.

Lukaku had a game he will want to forget quickly, but Mourinho was able to send on Marcus Rashford and it paid dividends within three minutes.

Having won a corner, linking up well with Paul Pogba, Rashford was then in the right place to volley the ball home after Pogba had failed to connect with Henrikh Mkhitaryan's centre.

Relief and joy engulfed Old Trafford and Mourinho's scream of delight was caught on the pitch-side microphones. He knew what it meant.

Up until that point, it had looked as if United might have been falling into the bad habits of last season, when points were dropped in a total of 15 league draws, 10 of them at Old Trafford. The other two replacements combined for the second goal, with Marouane Fellaini diverting in Jesse Lingard's cross-shot as Leicester appealed in vain for offside.

After starting the season with two 4-0 victories, United proved their effectiveness at wearing down opponents to fashion a win.

"There are going to be teams that defend for 90 minutes, and there are teams that are going to play on the counter-attack or go route one, but we are going to be ready for it," said Mkhitaryan.

This is a good start, but it's no more than that and afterwards Mourinho warned that United may not be able to maintain their excellent form once they are forced to play twice a week.

"If I have one week to prepare for a match, my team is always very good," he said.

"You have time to organise a week of work, going through every item of the game.

"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."

United's return to the Champions League, secured with last season's Europa League triumph, begins with a midweek visit from Basel on September 12.

The following week, their defence of the League Cup begins with a third-round tie against Championship side Burton Albion.

"From now, no more 'clean weeks'," Mourinho said. "From now, every week has a mid-week match until we are out of one of the cups.

"I think my team is the mirror of the work we are doing in clean weeks, when we can train five days and go through every item of the game plan." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport