Manchester United played Arsenal on Sunday afternoon, and nothing much happened. United scored the first goal, Arsenal the last, but both teams generally played like collections of humans who realised long, long ago that they wouldn't be winning the title, and would quite like to get on with the serious business of the FA Cup final/soaking up the sun in Dubai.
Except Phil Jones.
Where others bring lassitude, Jones brings commitment. Where others lie back, Jones flies in. Where others, finding themselves on all fours chasing Olivier Giroud, might think to themselves, "Ah well, it's only Olivier Giroud, he'll almost certainly shank this wide and then do that staggeringly irritating 'oh, look at me, I just shanked the ball wide, what am I like?' grin," Jones does this:
Yes, he collapses like an ancient civilisation. But he gets the job done.
Defending is both an art and a science: part martial ballet, part improvisational geometry. And going by the above, one might easily assume that Jones is as a newborn giraffe to both geometry and ballet, as well as to the more prosaic business of standing up. But that would be a gross disservice to the man, and to his achievements.
Defending is sometimes sublime, and defending is sometimes ridiculous; this season, Manchester United have tended toward the latter. But what you have just watched is a moment in which the ridiculous and the sublime set aside their proverbial antipathy and unite to synthesise something perfect, something both astonishing in a good way and astonishing in an "oh my God, look at that" way. Something hypnotic. Something horribly and compellingly magnificent.
If you can tear your eyes away from the above, here's how he did it, frame by frame. Here are the Nine Stations of Philip Anthony Jones.
1. ADDRESSING THE BALL
We open with a scene that typifies Jones' attention to detail, to the business of defending. It is axiomatic: when seeking to keep the ball from the net, one must at all times know exactly where the ball is. Here, we can be sure that of all the defenders who have ever known where the ball is, few have ever known quite so completely and profoundly as Jones at this precise moment. There is nothing else; there is just Jones, and his Nike Ordem.
(Yes, it's really called the Nike Ordem. No, we've no idea.)
2. ASSESSING THE ENEMY
Of course, gaze too long at the ball and the ball will gaze back at you. Great defenders also like to know who and where the attackers are, and what they're up to. Here, Jones' positioning means that he can only see the boots and socks of his opponent, and as such he can't afford to relax. They might belong to Alexis Sanchez, after all. And he's actually good.
3. IN WHICH OUR HERO, IN ACCORDANCE WITH TRADITION, REMOVES HIS INVISIBLE HAT
Because seriously, you don't want to be wearing an invisible hat when you're trying something like this.
4. APPROACHING THE BALL
This, perhaps, is the most crucial moment of the entire manoeuvre. This is Jones' last chance to admit defeat, to abandon his limbs to gravity and the ball to chance. And it would be hard to blame him: that ball is bouncing away, and though he's got his own momentum, his limbs look all wrong. How on earth does he generate enough power from that position?
In a thousand million other universes, a thousand million other Phil Joneses fail to find the extra twitch forward. They slump to the turf and the ball rolls on. Olivier Giroud bears down on goal, while Jones has to bear the burden of the collapse without the triumph of the rescue. His moment is cut off at the second act, and the Vines are a few seconds shorter. He looks silly. Everybody laughs at him.
But not this universe. Not our Phil Jones.
5. THE SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF; THE DISBELIEF OF SUSPENSION
At this stage we pause to contemplate the strange vortex of circumstance that has led to Jones -- a professional footballer of more than 100 games for Manchester United, an England international and Premier League title winner -- finding himself in the penalty area, in contact with the ground, with two hands, with no feet.
Here, frozen in the crucial moment, we can see the true relationship between defender and ball. So often assumed to exist in violent antagonism, here we see the secret tenderness that lies beneath. Please, Jones whispers, his voice soft. Please. I need you. I need you now more than ever. I need you to shuffle over there a touch and clank of Olivier Giroud's shin, then out for a goal kick. Yes, I love you. You know I love you. Go, my darling. And luck go with you.
7. IN WHICH OUR HERO IS DESTROYED
This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.
8. IN WHICH OUR HERO IS BORN AGAIN
He came riding fast like a phoenix out of fire flames.
Football fans, all of them secure in their exceptional handsomeness, like to make mockery of Phil Jones' face, which is prone to the occasional gurn at moments of high excitement. Here, though, the oversaturated video we've used serves to bring out Jones' inner fire, a searing red glow of pride. Look at him! He's glowing! It's ... it's beautiful!