Gareth Southgate has admitted he feels sympathetic towards Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho after defender Phil Jones returned from international duty injured for the second consecutive time.
Jones picked up a minor injury in October’s international break, but a more serious one for England against Germany in a friendly in mid-November and hasn’t been back in action for Man United since.
Mourinho has complained about the issue, questioning why Jones was played against Germany, particularly given it was a friendly, despite having a knock.
Speaking ahead of the FIFA 2018 World Cup draw, Southgate said: “First and foremost, I have massive empathy with Jose.
“As a manager, you don’t want to lose players to injury. For me, as the national coach, that’s the worst scenario when a player goes back to his club and is not able to play.”
Southgate was quick to heap praise on United, claiming they are the most supportive of all Premier League clubs towards the national team.
“Manchester United are incredibly supportive of everything we do. Sometimes people suggest that is not the case but they are arguably our most supportive club. We are very conscious of our relationship with them.
“We have got on-going dialogue over this situation – it is a complex one and we want to make sure we get these things right.
“Equally, I have every trust in our medical team that they make the right calls. They are very experienced people and this is an unfortunate situation and we hope Phil is back playing as soon as he can be.”
United have consistently produced quality players for England sides, but have often had a controversial relationship with the national team. For many United fans, it’s club way over country: the Republik of Mancunia phrase lending to that idea.
For some players, too, like Gary Neville, it appeared to be the same. David Beckham and Wayne Rooney, two United greats, have been horribly abused by England fans, particularly Beckham, as well as his Class of ’92 teammate Phil Neville.
But United as a club are clearly supportive. Jones, though, remains unavailable for United, which is a huge frustration. Quite why an historically injury-prone footballer played in a friendly when he had a knock is a mystery.