Gareth Southgate believes that Phil Jones’ stint in Manchester United's midfield will ultimately make him a better defender.
Since arriving from Blackburn Rover for £18 million in the summer, Jones - who was expected to play nothing more than a bit part role this season - has become an important part of the setup at Old Trafford, excelling at centre-back, right-back and in midfield.
Jones’ positional dexterity has been noted by England coach Fabio Capello, who handed him his international debut at right-back in a 2-2 draw away to Montenegro, which sealed their qualification for Euro 2012.
The following game against World Cup and European Championship holders Spain saw the United man deployed in midfield and, after scoring his first goals for his new club against Aston Villa and FC Basel, many feel the centre-back may eventually reside in midfield.
However former England defender Gareth Southgate, who spent the early part of his career in midfield for Crystal Palace and briefly played there at international level, believes his spell in the centre of the park will make him a better defender.
"It looks to me as though he’ll be a centre-back, but that experience of playing in midfield will make him a better player," Southgate exclusively told FourFourTwo.com
"It will make him a ball-playing centre-back who can bring the ball forward. It will mean he’s more comfortable in possession in midfield areas if it is at centre-back that he ends up being."
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson appears to regard Jones, along with Chris Smalling, as more than capable replacements for Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, with the Serbian now sidelined for the rest of the campaign with knee ligament damage.
Capello, on the other hand, believes his industry could prove a huge asset in midfield, and is set to continue playing him further forward for England’s friendlies next year – something Southgate feels will only help Jones progress on the international scene.
"I don’t see any downside to it, especially in the friendly matches giving him that experience," he said.
"I think it will help his development; it will help his understanding of other players in his team and their role, and it’s great for a youngster to get that different experience."
Gareth Southgate was speaking on behalf of Carlsberg, The Official Beer of The England Team. Carlsberg will be giving away tickets to Euro 2012 throughout the season. Keep checking Facebook.com/CarlsbergForEngland for your chance to watch England in next summer’s EURO 2012™ Championships.