Phil Jones destined to lead England, says Steve Kean
Blackburn boss Steve Kean has no doubts Phil Jones will eventually become captain of England.
The 19-year-old left Ewood Park for Manchester United last summer. And already, Jones has made the £17million fee look like a bargain, turning in a string of impressive performances for the Red Devils, in addition to winning his first three England caps.
Illness permitting, Jones will face his former club at Old Trafford tomorrow, which will just offer Kean a sharp reminder of the talent he lost.
"I have not been surprised at how Phil Jones has settled into life at Manchester United one bit," said Kean.
"When I first saw Phil down at the academy I thought 'this boy is a player'. I always hoped he would captain our club. Now he is at Manchester United, I am sure he will captain them and he will captain England."
That Jones made just 40 appearances for the club he supported as a boy before being prised away by Sir Alex Ferguson just underlines what a difficult task the Premier League's second tier teams have in retaining their best players.
"I appreciate it is difficult. In the case of Phil, he was being offered Champions League football and we were getting a sizeable fee.
"And I always felt he would go straight into their team anyway such is his quality.
"He has proven that. The first indication was that he received a low squad number. That suggested he was going to play a lot of games.
"He will go on to become a very good player, of that I have absolutely no doubt at all."
Kean confirmed he will present Ferguson with a special bottle of red wine to toast the United manager's birthday. The Glaswegian turns 70 tomorrow.
He will also get the chance to personally thank his fellow Scot for the positive message he left, and then endorsed when Kean returned the phone call in the wake of the abuse he received following the pre-Christmas defeat by Bolton.
"We had a good chat," said Kean. "For him to take the time out to phone me with a message of support shows the stature of the man. I was really impressed by that.
"What he said was very encouraging. When you are getting managers like Sir Alex, Harry Redknapp, David Moyes and Alan Pardew saying hang in there, you are doing the right things, wait until you get your lads out of the treatment room and you will be fine, it gives you confidence.
"They have been in the game a long time and been in similar situations. I listen and take their advice because they have been round the block."
Meanwhile, Ryan Giggs believes Manchester United's vast experience can be a decisive factor in this season's title race.
"The experience that the manager, the players and the coaching staff have of what's required in the second half of the season, as well as the overall hunger and desire to win competitions will help us," Giggs said.
"Big players can't wait for big games and towards the end of the season the games just get bigger and bigger.
"You want that in the run-in - you want to be involved in big games and going for the title. That's why you become a footballer."