Phil Jones
Manchester United's Jones challenges Benfica's Rodrigo during their Champions League match in Manchester. REUTERS

Phil Jones has backed Manchester United to qualify for the Champions League knock-out stage and believes domestic rivals Manchester City could feel the pace as they enter the crucial Christmas period.

The Manchester United defender believes his side are still favourites to advance from Group C, despite Tuesday's 2-2 draw at home to Benfica.

Jones scored an own goal as the Portuguese side came from behind to secure a point at Old Trafford and Manchester United now face the prospect of failing to qualify if they lose away at Basle in their final group game.

"It is one of those things that happens to the best players, there is nothing you can do and it has gone in the back of the net. What can you do?" said Jones. "The ball has come across and it is just a reaction.

"The reaction has got a lot better and from what I have experienced you can't switch off for one second in the Champions League or you get punished like we have seen against Benfica.

"We have conceded two sloppy goals but we probably could have scored five. We have more than enough quality in our side to go to Basle and get all three points. I'm sure if we prepare right we will do that."

Manchester United are level on points with Benfica but trail the Portuguese side by virtue of their superior head-to-head record.

United travel to Basle for their final group game knowing the Swiss champions could leapfrog them into second place with a home win.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side were eager to secure top spot to avoid facing a last-16 draw against the top seeds. However, Jones was bullish at the prospect of facing one of the tournament favourites at an earlier stage than they would have liked.

"If we play Barcelona or Real Madrid it is just another game," said Jones. "They are two fantastic teams in the Champions League with world-class players, but they are only human and I'm sure we can turn up and give them a good game."

Meanwhile, Jones remains optimistic over United's Premier League form, despite trailing rivals City by five points.

City's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League knock-out phase suffered a severe blow on Tuesday as they lost 2-1 at Napoli. Roberto Mancini's side travel to Liverpool on Sunday for the start of a tricky festive period encompassing a Carling Cup quarter-final at Arsenal; a must-win Champions League clash with Bayern Munich; and domestic ties against Chelsea and Arsenal.

And Jones believes their 'noisy neighbours' could come unstuck as they enter the business end of the season.

"City have done fantastically this season," said Jones. "I am not taking anything away from them. But they do have some tough games coming up.

"I don't care how good you are, teams can be put under pressure. This is a difficult league to be in. it would be nice to reach top spot by Christmas. But it is not essential. Don't be writing us off if we are not there by January."