Manchester United defender Phil Jones is refusing to abandon his Premier League title dream.
Following Monday’s crushing defeat at Manchester City, United now need to record massive wins over Swansea and Sunderland in their final two matches, or hope Newcastle or QPR do them a huge favour by avoiding defeat against Roberto Mancini’s men.
Of all those scenarios, City failing to win at Newcastle is the most likely, with a team that was eight points clear with just four games to go now in the painful position of requiring help from others.
And for Jones, the pain is even more acute, given he is one of the few members of Alex Ferguson’s squad who has not experienced the joy of a championship-winning campaign. The 20-year-old is not giving up just yet though. Acknowledging United performed below their own lofty expectations at Etihad Stadium in midweek, he insists the situation can be retrieved.
“There have obviously been a lot of questions raised and rightly so,” he said.
“We didn’t play to our best on Monday, which was disappointing. But make no mistake, we are still there. We are on level points. Only goal difference separates us and we have seen this season there have been so many twists and turns. Don’t be surprised if you see a few more.”
Jones reports there has been no suggestion of anyone feeling sorry for themselves.
“The disappointment turned to positivity very quickly,” he said.
“On Tuesday the lads were gutted and massively disappointed. But we have moved on quickly, pushed it to one side and put it right in training. There are still a lot of bubbly characters about. There is no point dwelling on it. It has gone. We move on and are looking forward to the game at the weekend.”
And United know from their own experience how difficult facing Newcastle can be. After all, they managed to secure a single point from their two meetings with the Magpies this term and were thumped on Tyneside in January, suffering a three-goal mauling even before 13-goal striking phenomenon Papiss Cisse joined the Geordie ranks.
“They were terrific that night,” said Jones.
“They pressed us really well and we didn’t get going. But I have said all along, Newcastle are a terrific team with some fantastic individuals. Cisse’s two goals the other night were incredible, so let’s hope they can do us a favour.”
It promises to be a difficult Sunday for United, who must somehow manage to retain focus on their own encounter with Swansea knowing their destiny is being shaped somewhere else in a match that concludes 30 minutes before theirs is about to start.
“We have to concentrate on what we can do,” said Jones.
“We have to win the two games, take six points and see where that takes us. I am sure what is happening at Newcastle will be in the back of everyone’s minds but there is no point sitting there watching their game.
“I don’t think it will be on in the dressing room because we have to prepare properly.”
Jones certainly doesn’t buy into Roberto Mancini’s theory that United will cruise through their first Old Trafford encounter with Swansea since 1983. Brendan Rodgers’ side have already caused a stir this season, including beating City at the Liberty Stadium in March.
“I don’t know about it being easy,” said Jones. “If he looks at the games, none of them are easy in the Premier League. There have been so many surprises and Swansea are one of them.”
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