"Not the prettiest of games" was Phil Jones' verdict on Manchester United's victory over FC Oţelul Galaţi but it was a pretty useful three points all the same.
United's second successive 2-0 defeat of the now eliminated Romanian champions lifted them level on eight points with SL Benfica, their rivals for first place in Group C and visitors to Old Trafford on 22 November. Moreover, it continued their recovery from the shock of that 6-1 home derby defeat by Manchester City FC, with a third clean sheet in as many matches since then.
"We've put that one to bed now, it was a bad day at the office, everyone has them and we went out to Everton in the Premier League [last Saturday] and produced a terrific performance there and got a clean sheet," Jones told UEFA.com. "
Perhaps it wasn't the prettiest of games tonight but we've managed to get two goals and another clean sheet and that's a platform to build on."
United conceded three times in their opening home game with FC Basel 1893 but they limited Oţelul to just a couple of first-half opportunities here. Leading through Antonio Valencia's early close-range finish from a Jones cross, Sir Alex Ferguson's men missed several good scoring chances in the second period before Cristian Sârghi's late own goal secured the points. Goalkeeper David de Gea concurred that another shut-out would help the team's confidence. "The defence played very well, the midfield too, and keeping a clean sheet is very important."
Jones' own display at right-back was one of the biggest positives for United, along with Wayne Rooney's turn in midfield. Jones was a constant threat to the away defence with his marauding runs down the flank and De Gea hailed the 19-year-old's impact since his summer arrival from Blackburn Rovers FC when he said: "
For how young Phil is, with the way he plays it is clear he has got it all."
Jones himself was circumspect about his contribution. "I am happy to play anywhere in the team," he said, "whether it is at centre-back or right-back and I am just enjoying it." Not least his first taste of UEFA Champions League football. "It is brilliant. One of the reasons I came to Manchester United was to play in the Champions League and test myself against some the best players from all over the world and I am just enjoying it."
The goal now is to beat Benfica in three weeks' time and seize first place in the section. Jones added: "We know it will be another difficult game but we will prepare right and hopefully we can go out there and finish top of the group."
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