Who was Manchester United’s star man against Leicester City?

Phil Jones

This may well end up to be the greatest comeback since Lazarus.
Once a rash and reckless defender, prone to ongoing injuries that hampered progress on and off the field, Jones has emerged through the darkness as a thoughtful, careful centre back.
His performance in Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Leicester City spoke volumes of the professionalism and maturity embedded into his head by Jose Mourinho.
Going into matchday three of the new season, Leicester were just second behind United regarding goals scored, and with the likes of Shinji Okazaki, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy leading the line both Bailly and Jones had to be near their best to deal with the threat.
The pace and dynamism of the trio had torn apart both Arsenal and Brighton’s defences, but United remained stubborn and unflustered.
Leicester’s biggest opportunity to score was on the counter attack and early in the second half Mahrez nearly found the net in the style and swagger of the PFA Player of the Year from 2015/16.
His direct burst of acceleration through the right channel troubled the home defence, but Jones was there to clean up, swooping in to make an inch perfect slide tackle.
The accuracy of the timing of the challenge optimised Jones’s cool, calm and collective display. The England international had a 96% pass accuracy, but most impressively committed no fouls in his six clearances.
The only real negative on the defender’s part occurred in the 90th minute when he allowed striker Andy King to surge forward in the penalty box, but David De Gea’s instinctive save with his foot kept up United’s 100% clean sheet record.
Not since the days of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have United seen a rock solid centre-back partnership, but with Bailly and Jones, they may have albeit accidentally found one.
The signing of Victor Lindelof, in hindsight, was to shore up the left side of United’s defence. But Jones’s improvement, tied with the Swede’s tough task to adapt to the physicality of Premier League football, has meant that the former Blackburn Rovers player has a chance to imprint an indelible mark on his preferred position.
Previously mocked for his facial expressions and tumultuous tackles, there is now a steady self-assurance from a player who is far more confident on the ball, but at the same time aware of his limits and the dangers of losing the ball in a crucial position on the pitch.
If Jones can stay fit, and given his history it is a big if, the centre back may finally live up to his potential.