Manchester United’s chances of bypassing Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League tie have taken a severe blow after defensive midfielder, Phil Jones, limped off the Old Trafford pitch on Monday night.
Up against a spirited Reading side, United had to work hard for their victory in the FA Cup fifth round and Sir Alex Ferguson took a gamble in resting a number of his stars.
One man to survive the cull was Jones – who once again proved an integral part of United’s team – and had played his role well until the 40th minute, when Jobi McAnuff pounced on a miss-control and the two players collided.
Unfortunately, Jones came out far worse than his opponent and a scan on Tuesday revealed damage to his ankle. There is now serous concern he will not be fit for the Real Madrid clash next week, a major hurdle in Ferguson’s plans to take apart the Spanish giants.
For Jones put in a man of the match performance in Madrid last Wednesday and, were it not for his determination to cover open ground, Real would have created many more chances than they did.
He also proved his worth for the team during United’s 2-0 win over Everton three days before, setting an example to many other Premier League midfielders on how to man-mark Marouane Fellaini out of the game.
His loss would be a severe blow for Ferguson, who must find a replacement to cover the back four. Anderson has never proven quite up to it, meaning Michael Carrick will be trusted to holding that position just above the defence.
Carrick has the ability and concentration to fulfil this role but there is always the danger he will stray forward, forgetting his duties. Hopefully, United don’t need too much cover to outscore Real on the night, but with Jones out there is a weakness for Ronaldo and co. to exploit.