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Football: Jones faces fitness race to make Real return

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Alex Ferguson revealed on Thursday that Manchester United defender Phil Jones has only a slim chance of being fit for his side's decisive Champions League showdown with Real Madrid.

Jones suffered an ankle injury during Monday's FA Cup win over Reading and Ferguson admitted the England international will miss Saturday's trip to QPR and faces a battle to recover in time for the last 16 second leg clash against Jose Mourinho's Madrid on March 5.

The 21-year-old is having intense treatment in the hope of being available for the Old Trafford encounter, which United will go into as slight favourites after a 1-1 draw in Spain last week.

Ferguson knows Jones' absence from the Real game would cause him a headache given how well the former Blackburn star performed in the first leg when he was handed the difficult role of subduing Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Phil Jones is the one we were really concerned about in terms of the Real Madrid game. We're working hard on it," Ferguson said.

"I would say he's got an outside chance but no more than that. He obviously won't be fit for the weekend.

"When you look at his tackle, it's the tackle of a young man going in too brave and he was unbalanced in the tackle and ended up with a sore one but we'll give him a chance.

"He's got an outside chance and that's all. He did an incredible job in the first leg and we know he's capable of that."

Jones has struggled with a variety of injury problems since joining from Blackburn in 2011.

Former United captain Bryan Robson has commented on Jones' tackling style, saying that he had a similar approach, which resulted in plenty of injuries during his own career.

Ferguson agrees there is a comparison but does not want Jones to change his attitude.

"He tackled awkwardly, with the outside of his foot, and he dangled his foot in there so that's why he's ended up with the injury he's got," he said.

"But you can't measure a person from a tackle because if he's got that courage and willingness to tackle, Bryan Robson was exactly the same.

"Bryan couldn't see danger and neither can Phil. That's a lot to do with the courage they have. You're not going to take that out of him and I wouldn't attempt that."

Ferguson believes David Gill, who will leave his role as United's chief executive on June 30, will go on to have a successful influence at UEFA, the European game's governing body.

Currently a vice-chairman at the Football Association, Gill is reportedly in the running for a position on UEFA's executive committee.

"He's got other challenges. He's a young man and he'll do fantastically at UEFA," Ferguson said.

"He's a man with great dignity and he's a clever man. He'll contribute greatly to the game in general. I wouldn't recommend his role at the FA and he's got a task to try to improve that (the FA).

"He will have an influence in football. I'm sure of that."

Gill's responsibilities will be taken on by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and Ferguson believes the club is in good hands.

"We've been good at promoting from within and we're doing it again with Ed Woodward stepping up," he added.

"David came as a finance director and ended up chief executive and from the football side Mike Phelan came as a reserve coach and is now my assistant and Rene Meulenstin, came as a development coach and is now my first-team coach.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130221/football-jones-faces-fitness-race-make-real-return-0