Phil Jones claims to have had no fear lining up against Cristiano Ronaldo, with the Manchester United star having helped to contain a five-time Ballon d’Or winner in a Champions League clash with Real Madrid in February 2013.
A trip to Santiago Bernabeu for the first leg of a last-16 encounter saw the Red Devils handed the toughest of tests. They were to secure a 1-1 draw on Spanish soil, before coming unstuck in the return at Old Trafford.
Ronaldo was on target in Manchester, but drew a blank on his first reunion with United since taking the decision to head for Madrid in the summer of 2009.
Jones was among those charged with the task of keeping a familiar face quiet at the Bernabeu as the England international lined up a midfield role, and he says facing superstar performers has never been an issue for him as they are just “human beings”.
“Yeah, it’s Ronaldo, and he’s such an iconic figure and he’s done so much for the sport, but you’re that young, you don’t care. You don’t care who he is and what he's done,” Jones, who was a week away from celebrating his 21st birthday at the time, told MUTV.
“You just go out to win a game of football, no matter who you’re up against. That’s always how I’ve looked at football. I don’t care who I’m up against. We’re just human beings and it’s just a game of football.”
Jones’ performance against Ronaldo and co earned him plenty of plaudits.
He has struggled to maintain those standards down the years, with injury issues having become an all too familiar theme, but the 28-year-old is proud of what he has achieved and is able to look back on notable outings with great fondness.
A man with 27 England caps to his name added on a meeting with Real from eight years ago: “It was a really big game for me. Playing against Madrid, in the Bernabeu.
“I played centre-midfield alongside Michael Carrick. There was a lot of hype about Ronaldo in that game, but we limited him to a few chances and we got a good 1-1 result at the Bernabeu, before we lost in the home leg.
“It was incredible: the stadium, the atmosphere. It was a mad game and one that flashes by at the time. You only really take note of it a few years down the line.
“I think I got back the day after and the next night I had a catch up with my mates and they’re saying ‘you played in the Bernabeu last night, against Ronaldo’. But when you’re that young, you just take it all in your stride and take it all for granted. It’s only when you look back and think ‘wow, what an occasion’.”
Jones now has 224 appearances for United to his name and is tied to a contract at Old Trafford through to the summer of 2023