Mourinho told Man United need fully fit 24-year-old defender to win the title

The Spurs legend explains the importance of Phil Jones to Manchester United's title defence

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho Photo: Uefa handout

Phil Jones will need to stay fit throughout the season if Manchester United are going to win the title, Garth Crooks has claimed.

Manchester United made an entertaining start to the new campaign on Sunday afternoon after the Red Devils eased to a resounding 4-0 victory over West Ham United.

Summer signing Romelu Lukaku scored either side of half-time at Old Trafford before late goals from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba in their Premier League opener.

Manchester United’s new defender Victor Lindelof wasn’t named in the match day squad despite the Red Devils spending £30.7m to sign the Sweden international from Portuguese champions Benfica.

Mourinho was forced to alternate between Eric Bailly, Jones, Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling last term as all of the Manchester United centre-halves struggled with injury problems.

Jones started alongside Bailly for the visit of the Hammers on Sunday afternoon as Manchester United managed to keep a clean sheet unlike Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool in the opening weekend.

Former Spurs forward Crooks believes Manchester United need Jones to remain fit to challenge for the title throughout the 2017-18 campaign.

“It was good to see Phil Jones fit and playing in a Manchester United shirt again,” Crooks told BBC Sport.

“He has suffered more than his fair share of injuries over the years but if Jose Mourinho intends to challenge for the title this season then he is going to need a fully-fit Jones.

“The former Blackburn defender can no longer go crashing into every challenge as though his life depends on it. Of course, it’s every defender’s dream to leave something on his opponent but Jones has to wise up. Picking his tackles is a vital pre-requisite if he intends to be part of a title-winning team under Mourinho.

“Of all the central defenders at Old Trafford, Jones is the most comfortable on the ball. Chris Smalling is a warrior and Eric Bailly a great support act but if Jones can start to play with his head and not just his heart, United could be in for one hell of a season.”

Manchester United finished in sixth place in the Premier League table last season but won the EFL Cup and the Europa League.

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