Roy Hodgson is set to choose between two Manchester United centre-halves to fill-in at right-back for England’s crucial World Cup 2014 qualifier against Poland and all the evidence suggests Phil Jones will take his place in the Three Lions defence at Wembley ahead of Chris Smalling.
With Kyle Walker suspended and Glen Johnson ruled out through injury Hodgson, whose England team are 11/50 to book their place in Brazil with a victory, must decide on which United defender will be most effective against the Poles, who are 11/1 to spoil the party with an away win while the draw is 5/1.
The Preston native played in more big games and created more chances than Smalling last season.
In Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season as manager Jones was entrusted with the holding midfield spot in United’s 1-1 draw at home to Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final and was preferred to Smalling in the title run-in when first choice right-back Rafael da Silva was rested against Stoke.
Both of United’s young centre-backs had 85 per cent pass completion rates last term, but Jones created eight chances during the Premier League campaign, of which one was converted into a goal, while Smalling laid on just two key passes during the whole season.
Jones played in each of David Moyes’ first four games as boss at Old Trafford – starting three times at right-back.
This season, the Scot has tried Antonio Valencia and Fabio da Silva in the position ahead of Smalling when Jones and Rafael were both ruled out with injury.
Smalling has only started at right-back for the Red Devils once in the Premier League this term, in the 4-1 reverse at Manchester City.
Despite being two years younger, Jones has more international experience than Smalling.
23-year-old Smalling made his international debut a month before his 21-year-old teammate, but Jones made a big impression on his first appearance – tellingly at right-back – with former England boss proclaiming after the 2-2 Euro 2012 qualifying draw with Montenegro that the defender was ‘born with talent’.
Jones has since racked up eight appearances to his teammate’s six despite missing big chunks of the last two seasons with injuries.