United’s Rio Ferdinand shows off his skill at training.
United’s Rio Ferdinand shows off his skill at training. manutd.com

Phil Jones has backed his Manchester United teammate Rio Ferdinand to prove his critics wrong by continuing to play a prominent role at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson recently suggested the 32-year-old was no longer a guaranteed starter because of the emerging talent at the club. The Scot also urged his long serving stalwart, who turns 33 on Monday, to adapt his game in order to contend with the mounting challenge posed by Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans, but many have questioned his ability to play a key role as the rigours of time catch up with him.

A dismal performance against Manchester City resulted in the England international's omission from the starting line-up that beat Everton, but he was recalled for the game against Otelul Galati and at times it was difficult to disagree with Ferguson's assessment that Ferdinand had lost "a yard of pace," particularly when faced with one-on-one situations.

Despite Ferdinand's apparent decline and with work still to do in terms of restoring Ferguson's faith in him, Jones believes his veteran teammate has plenty to offer both on and off the pitch.

The 19-year-old has featured for United more than any other player thus far this season, belying his relative inexperience at this level and he believes Ferdinand's age, like his own presumably, "is just a number".

Jones credits the aforementioned former England captain for helping him settle in at the club and suggests Ferdinand remains a hugely influential player in the Old Trafford dressing room, as well as remaining a top player.

"Rio is a fantastic player, his age is just a number." The recently capped England international told Sky Sports News.

"I learn a lot from him every day in training.

"He is always helping me, always talking to me and that is massive."

While some have intimated Ferdinand's powers are on the wane, the opposite can be said for the prodigiously gifted former Blackburn Rovers youngster. The £17 million summer signing had been expected to bide his time before making a serious impression on Sir Alex Ferguson's starting XI, yet his superb form and versatility has made him an almost permanent fixture despite the Scot's perpetual tendency to rotate his squad.

"I came here to play games and perhaps I didn't expect to play so many games so soon." Jones said "I'm happy to play anywhere in the team, whether it's centre-back or right-back. I'm just enjoying it."