|Alex Ferguson hopes Jones will help close the gap between United and Josep Guardiola's Barcelona [GALLO/GETTY]
Manchester United has signed teenage defender Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers on a five-year deal, the clubs said on Monday.
The Premier League champions did not give details of the fee they paid for the 19-year-old, although Blackburn described the deal as a "club record," which means it will eclipse the $29 million that Manchester City paid for striker Roque Santa Cruz two years ago.
Jones is the latest England Under-21 international to make a big-money move as Premier League clubs appear to be switching their focus away from expensive foreign imports towards home-grown talent.
Liverpool, who spent $57 million on striker Andy Carroll in January, recruited midfielder Jordan Henderson from Sunderland last week in a deal reported to be worth around $26 million.
Jones, who only played 40 times for Blackburn, will face stiff competition for a spot in central defence from Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling.
"The player passed a medical in Manchester last week and has agreed a five-year contract. The deal will be completed once the player returns from international duty," United said in a statement.
| England Under-21 player Jordan Henderson attracted a lot of attention from the big clubs before signing for Liverpool [GALLO/GETTY]
Even before the transfer was announced, United striker Wayne Rooney described Jones as "one of the toughest defenders I played against last season."
"Much as we would love him to stay on with us - and we made all efforts to convince him to stay - Phil has to finally follow his heart," Rovers said in a statement on their website.
"We are extremely happy with his contribution to our team and we wish him all the very best in his future endeavours."
The signing reflects the importance manager Ferguson is placing on youngsters.
While United won a record 19th English title in May, the team was outclassed by Barcelona in the Champions League final.
Jones was one of four United players to feature against Spain in England's 1-1 draw in the Under-21 European Championships on Sunday, with Smalling, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley also in action.
And in the Spanish goal was David De Gea, the 20-year-old from Atletico Madrid who Ferguson said last month United was close to signing.
Former Manchester United assistant Steve McClaren is returning to English football as Nottingham Forest's new manager.
A decade after being handed his first managerial job by Middlesbrough after impressing at United, the 50-year-old McClaren agreed a three-year contract with second-tier side Forest on Monday, having rehabilitated his managerial reputation outside of England.
It is McClaren's first job in English football since an ill-fated spell in charge of the national team between 2006 and 2007 which saw England fail to make the 2008 European Championships.
"It is rare for a manager and coach of his undoubted caliber to be available,'' Nottingham Forest chief executive Mark Arthur said on the appointment.