Phil Jones has become the forgotten man of Manchester United.
It is incredible to think that Jones is still only 28 years old, just two years older than Paul Pogba and one year older than Fred.
The centre back has played just two Premier League games this season, the first against Sheffield United at Bramhall Lane in November in which he was substituted at half-time after a dreadful error and all-round unsteady performance.
His only League appearance since then came in the shock 2-0 defeat by Burnley at Old Trafford.
His selection in that match, and the following midweek Cup match against Tranmere, came at a time when there was only one other fully fit centre back available to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe and Tim Fosu-Mensah all out injured and Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo out on loan.
Solskjaer has played with three centre backs regularly since that Burnley defeat but has chosen to employ Luke Shaw as a makeshift centre back rather than put his faith in Jones.
And now, with Bailly, Tuanzebe and Fosu-Mensah all fit again, the Preston-born man has not even made it to the bench in seven consecutive games.
Sir Alex Ferguson once famously claimed that Jones could be United’s greatest ever player. Speaking in 2013, Sir Alex said ‘Jones, arguably the way he is looking, could be our best ever player. I think Jones may be one of the best players we have ever had, not matter where we play him.’
He was also touted as the next Duncan Edwards by Sir Bobby Charlton and the next Franco Baresi by his then England manager, Fabio Capello.
But injuries and defensive errors have plagued Jones since those early days and that promise was never fulfilled.
The Athletic notes that ‘Jones has missed 1,129 days of football because of injuries and illness’ and lists the variety of injuries that the Englishman has sustained. ‘Knee, hamstring, calf, hip, toe, foot, ankle, thigh, shin, groin, shoulder, pelvis, back — Jones has had the lot, sometimes on several occasions.’
The full-blooded approach the defender has to the game has not just led to injuries, but also to at times comical falls, slips and gaffes that has earned him a comedic reputation on social media.
Football fans can be cruel and Jones has become more of a meme sideshow than a player in recent times.
Even when footage emerged of him scoring an amazing goal in United’s winter training camp last month, he was trolled mercilessly on Twitter.
The Preston-born man is fully aware of his reputation and has declined a testimonial next season because he does not feel it would be welcomed by the fans. ‘Apart from my mum and dad, who else would turn up?’ he told The Athletic.
Jones is another player, along with Jesse Lingard, who may need to try to reinvent himself in a new club next season and there has been speculation that United may indeed let him move on should an offer come in.
It will be a sad end to what once promised to be a stellar Manchester United career.
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