Phil Jones plans long-term Man United partnership with Chris Smalling

Phil Jones has hailed Chris Smalling as a role model and has said that he wants to follow in his friend's footsteps and cement a place at the heart of the Manchester United defence.

The two centre-backs were squad players at Old Trafford for several seasons but Smalling has now established himself as an automatic choice in Louis van Gaal's team.

Fellow England international Jones also signed a new contract in the summer but missed the start of the season because of thrombosis.

He has only recently regained his place in the side and feels he could benefit from an extended spell in the side like the one Smalling has enjoyed.

"A million percent, it's what I need -- a run of games," Jones said. "The more games you play, the more confident you get and I think Chris has been terrific this season and hopefully we can cement a partnership together."

Jones joined in the praise for Smalling, who has become a favourite for manager Van Gaal, adding: "It's brilliant. I am delighted for him. He has worked hard.

"He is a great lad off the field. He has worked his socks off. All the credit he is getting at the moment, he deserved. I am pleased for him."

The former Blackburn defender has been paired with Smalling at the back for the games against Everton and Manchester City and United have kept clean sheets in both.

And Jones feels they have the skills to dovetail well, explaining: "Every time I play with Chris, he's comfortable, he is a great leader, a great talker. We complement each other well.

"We haven't played that many games together but when we have we have done well so hopefully we can keep going and be strong.

"We have been here for five years. At the start of my career here I was right-back, centre-back, centre-midfield, and Chris as well. He has done great this season and hopefully we can keep carrying on."