Lindelof transfer hailed by Jones as competition surges

Phil Jones played in only 21 of Manchester United's 64 matches last season and will be further tested by Victor Lindelof's arrival.
Phil Jones played in only 21 of Manchester United's 64 matches last season and will be further tested by Victor Lindelof's arrival.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Manchester United defender Phil Jones has welcomed the signing of fellow centre-back Victor Lindelof, even though that could mean that his own chances of playing are limited next season.

The 22-year-old Lindelof was a key player for Portuguese side Benfica last season, missing just six of the club's 46 matches in all competitions as they secured the domestic title for the fourth consecutive year.

In contrast, 25-year-old Jones has struggled to book a regular spot at United due to injuries and featured in just 21 of their 64 matches last term.

However, the England international said he relishes the increase in competition for first-team action at the English Premier League club.

"We're Manchester United, we're going to attract the best players and the biggest players," Jones said.

"It would be a strange summer if we weren't signing players like that. Competition is always good."

Lindelof is the first close-season signing for Jose Mourinho this year, as the United manager aims to add to the Europa League and League Cup triumphs from last season.

THE CLUB IS THE REAL VICTOR

We're Manchester United, we're going to attract the best players and the biggest players... Competition is always good.

PHIL JONES, welcoming the signing of fellow centre-back Victor Lindelof.

The Swede passed his medical test at the club's training ground in Carrington on Wednesday before signing a four-year deal, with the option of a further year. It is believed that the transfer fee is worth up to £39.6 million (S$69.9 million).

With his arrival, Michael Keane has changed his mind about leaving Burnley to return to United once he discovered that his former club wanted to sign two centre-backs, The Times has learnt.

United were interested in signing two centre-backs this summer and held talks with Keane, who came through the club's academy system.

But it is believed that the 24-year-old defender cooled on the idea of a move because he feared he would not get much game time, which would jeopardise his England chances.

United have Lindelof, Jones, Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling and even Daley Blind vying for the two centre-back spots.

Everton are now favourites to sign Keane, who is available for between £20 million and £25 million.

The fact that United had discussed signing two centre-halves has also cast doubt on the future of Smalling.

Mourinho told Expresso, a Portuguese newspaper, that he used long-ball tactics in the Europa League final win over Ajax because the England centre-back Smalling's passing was not good enough.

"I told my players that for me, beautiful is not giving our opponents what they want," he said.

"I even joked with Smalling, 'With your feet, we're for sure not playing out from the back'."

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2017, with the headline 'Lindelof transfer hailed by Jones as competition surges'. Print Edition | Subscribe