When Manchester United signed Phil Jones for £17million back in 2011 (BBC), it was hailed by many as a masterstroke.

The 19-year-old had made waves with some outstanding performances for Blackburn Rovers. And he arrived at United at a time when Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were bossing games.

In short, for that kind of outlay, Sir Alex Ferguson knew he had a player capable of challenging that great partnership.

A couple of years later, Ferguson told Sky Sports: “Arguably, the way he (Jones) is looking, he could be our best ever player.”

Those comments proved to be very wide of the mark. Yet there is another United defender who could be everything Ferguson expected Jones to become.

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE – JULY 20: Manchester United’s Phil Jones in action with Axel Tuanzebe during the 2019 International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and FC Internazionale at the Singapore National Stadium on July 20, 2019 in Singapore. (Photo by Ivan Shum – Clicks Images/Getty Images)

Axel Tuanzebe has quietly and effectively impressed whenever he has been given a chance. Before injury struck earlier in the campaign, he was justifying the hype and his time will come again.

He has already moved ahead of Jones in the pecking order and the now 28-year-old is likely to move on this summer given his first-team struggles.

 

At 22, Tuanzebe will know next season is huge for him. If this campaign’s evidence is anything to go by, he won’t waste it.

Many United fans feel he is the most natural fit next to Harry Maguire. Even if he doesn’t usurp Victor Lindelof, Tuanzebe could play alongside both in a three, as a full-back or even as a defensive midfielder.

That versatility was what marked Jones out as one to watch. But it could be Tuanzebe who breaks United records when he is finally given a prolonged run in the team.

From there, the sky really is the limit.

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