The forgotten man of Manchester United, Phil Jones, could be about to start 2022 in Champions League action – but not for the Red Devils.
The versatile defender has been blighted by injuries that have kept him out of first team action since January 2020, but The Daily Mail is reporting that he could be set for a loan deal with Portuguese side Benfica.
‘Interim manager Ralf Rangnick has already confirmed he is ready to let players leave next month as he believes United’s squad is too big and any offer from Benfica would be considered,’ The Mail notes.
‘The Portuguese side, currently third in the Primeira Liga, are looking to bring in a versatile defender on loan and that could suit Jones as he looks to put himself in the shop window.’
If Jones were to stay at United, he could be registered to play in the Champions League but realistically his chances of getting game time would be slim.
Victor Lindelof, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly are all ahead of him in the pecking order for the centre-back role, the only position he has a realistic chance of playing at this stage.
Benfica are also still in Europe’s elite competition and could register the 29-year-old in time for the February 2nd deadline.
The Lisbon side have one of the easier draws in the Round of 16, facing Ajax.
They are also still in with a shout of winning the Portuguese domestic league, lying just four points behind joint leaders Porto and Sporting with more than half of the season remaining.
Moving to the Estadio da Luz would see Jones perform the same switch that brought Lindelof to United back in 2017, but in the opposite direction.
So far the report has seen little corroboration from the Portuguese press, which remains silent on the issue.
The Mail claims that United would probably prefer to sell the former Blackburn man but accept that a loan is more realistic at this stage, until he proves his fitness.
That could then see him secure a permanent deal in the summer of 2022.