Manchester United announced the capture of promising defender Phil Jones from Blackburn on Monday, marking Alex Ferguson's first foray into the offseason transfer market.

The 19-year-old Englishman has agreed a five-year deal with the Premier League champions that he will sign after returning from the European Under-21 Championship.

''This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am looking forward to a new challenge,'' Jones wrote on his Twitter account.

Blackburn described the deal as a ''club record,'' which means it will eclipse the 17.5 million pounds (then $29 million) that Manchester City paid for striker Roque Santa Cruz two years ago.

Even before the transfer was announced, United striker Wayne Rooney described Jones as ''one of the toughest defenders I played against last season.''

Jones, who only played 40 times for Blackburn, will face stiff competition for a spot in central defense from Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling.

''Welcome to Phil Jones, another top young talent joining the club,'' Ferdinand said. ''The future is bright.''

Jones passed a medical examination last week before traveling with the England Under-21 squad to Denmark where he played Sunday in a 1-1 draw against Spain.

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, with Smalling, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley also in action for England.

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.