Jones enjoying life at the top

Despite that shock defeat at Old Trafford, United remain on course

to top the mini-table covering all five games of the festive

period. Having been given a reprieve by Manchester City’s shock

defeat at Sunderland, the Red Devils will remain in the thick of

the title battle if they have better fortunes than their neighbours

when they head to the north east to face Newcastle on Wednesday. To

enjoy such experiences is one of the major reasons why Jones left

Blackburn last summer. And whilst helping his hometown club secure

their top flight status on the final day of last season represented

a fulfilling achievement he will never forget, Jones concedes it is

far better to be involved at the other end of the table. “I am

excited,” he said. “I am loving it. It was a nice feeling to get

out of trouble with Blackburn on the last day of the season. It is

an even nicer feeling knowing you are at the top of the table with

a fantastic chance of winning the English title.” Jones was

scathing of United’s performance against Blackburn but the

aftermath has been full of conjecture about Wayne Rooney, and a

lesser extent, Darron Gibson, both of whom watched from an

executive box at Old Trafford when it had been anticipated they

would be involved. Although there has been no word from United

about whether the pair will be part of Ferguson’s squad for the

trip to Tyneside, it would be a major surprise if they were not on

the team bus given the speed with which both parties have expressed

a desire to move on from the disciplinary measures invoked by

Ferguson following their Boxing Day night out. That offers the best

chance of United bouncing back from their first league defeat since

that 6-1 hammering by Manchester City in October. And the response

from that disaster, eight wins from nine games, leaves Jones to

suggest United do have what it takes to eventually clinch title

number 20. “Never for one second did I think we weren’t good

enough,” he said. “The way we bounced back from the Manchester City

game was unbelievable. “Not everyone thought we would. But that is

what Manchester United does best; prove people wrong. “When the

chips are down, you see who the real fighters are. That is the

beauty of Manchester United.” Jones emerged a winner on his only

previous trip to what is now known as the Sports Direct Arena and

will be part of a Red Devils contingent that has won on seven out

of their last nine visits, drawing the other two, although they

were held at Old Trafford in November. “It can be a daunting place

to go,” said Jones. “It is a great atmosphere. They have passionate

fans and it will be another difficult game.” United will not have

much chance to rest after tomorrow night’s game given the weekend

brings that eagerly-anticipated FA Cup third round clash with

Manchester City. However, it does represent a punctuation mark in

the Premier League season given they will not be in action again

until January 14, when Ferguson’s men take on Bolton. Not everyone

is a fan of the festive programme. Arsene Wenger has long railed

against the crush of fixtures and Andre Villas-Boas has wasted

little time making his objections known. Jones may still be a

teenager but he is old enough to know it is a traditional part of

the English game that is not going to change. “Everyone has a

little bit of a moan about how many games there are around

Christmas but the beauty of it is that everyone is in the same

position,” he said. “We just have to get on with it. “It is about

how we manage and cope with injuries. “We have been a bit

unfortunate but we are still up there fighting with the best.”