26th December 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
The fact it's taken Phil Jones over five years to make his 150th appearance for Manchester United, a feat he achieved on the weekend vs West Bromwich Albion, speaks volumes towards what a toll injury has had on his time at Old Trafford.

The man who Sir Alex Ferguson signed and believed would develop into one of the finest footballers England's seen, which hasn't quite eventuated just yet, marked the occasion fittingly by putting in a tremendously accomplished shift, full of upside and essentially bereft of weakness.

Alongside his new partner in crime, Marcos Rojo, a duo that's been integral in United's impressive seven match unbeaten streak, Jones' most pertinent task was to limit the effectiveness of Baggies big man, Salomon Rondon.

Through a combination of matching his adversary strength-wise, in the air and by implementing some intelligent stopping methods, Jones did exactly that. Being able to compete with the big, powerful Venezuelan in battles for strength, both in the air, and on the ground was the solid foundation Jones needed to win his duel with Rondon. But the Englishman didn't rely on this alone to get the better of his opponent.

Whenever Rondon was looking to make a run in behind Jones, the way the Red Devils' stopper constantly twisted his head to monitor Rondon's blindside movement worked wonders in nullifying his best efforts to breach the United backline.

Moreover, in situations where Rondon would drop deep in search of space closer to midfield to link play and connect West Brom's passing moves, Jones would vigorously press the ex Malaga and Zenit hitman. Jones' disruptive, physically imposing pressure and harrying of his man successfully disrupted Rondon's ability to smoothly control possession and distribute with any clarity, giving Jones the edge in another dimension of the game. Seeing as Rondon only completed 52.7% of his passes served as a glowing testament to Jones relentless blanketing efforts.

Even when Rondon would drift wide into the channels to make his forward excursions, Jones had him covered too as he remained concentrated and alert throughout, in what was a defensive masterclass of the highest order.

Put simply, Jones just had all the answers for whatever was thrown at him by his burly opponent, who's an excellent player in his own right, as he was quite possibly Man Utd's best player afield.

In the modern game where everything seems so focused on attacking, skills and goals, it's refreshing to hear Jones' opinion on his role and his personal characteristics. "I have always said that if I get a run of games. I know what I am capable of I'm not a player who goes on mazy runs, I like to defend. I like to do a job for the team," he humbly explained.

Interestingly, his manager, Jose Mourinho, also loves that Jones relishes and is so brilliant at undertaking his defensive duties, saying: "For me the most important quality in a central defender is the ability to defend."

"Sometimes defenders now think the most important ability is to build from the back. It is not. The most important thing is to defend and that's what I like about Phil Jones. He likes to defend, he wants to play as a defender. That is the main thing."

Although it was disappointing when Manchester United lost Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling to injury, the way Rojo and especially Jones have stepped up and filled the void has been a very pleasant surprise indeed for Mourinho's men.

Revitalised and playing at a level that closely resembles his best, Jones will be desperately hoping he can remain fit and finally fulfill his undoubted potential.

If he can do so, the man who's suffered a staggering 28 separate injuries certainly won't have to wait another five years to make his next 150 appearances for United.

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