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Cash in on Phil Jones or wrap him in bubble wrap?

Phil Jones’s career could be described as turbulent, to say the least. The centre-back by trade has seen glorious high’s; being earmarked as having the potential to be one of the greatest Manchester United players ever. While he has also seen the hideous lows, the very familiar sight of a physiotherapist’s plinth. Unfortunately for Jones, he has very much seen more of the latter than the former. As a signing Jones had so much promise, he was a big, no-nonsense defender. The kind of raw yet huge presence with the abilities to one day step up and fulfil some rather large, Nemanja Vidic-sized shoes. But so far, this has not happened.

Previously, excuses have been made for the defender who is still unbelievably only 25. It was said that he would rush into tackles in a clumsy manner, causing the injuries himself. A player who was less “no nonsense” but more “no sense” at all. Then was the factor of him playing out of position, that playing in areas of the field that required more running may have an impact on his injuries, that his lack of positional awareness was making life much harder for the youngster. Despite all this, United fans have maintained the “he will come good one-day” attitude while being left consistently frustrated by this not happening. However, one thing the United faithful can not hold against Jones is his commitment; whether it be him celebrating with the away fans or his 100% commitment to the challenge.

The appearance stats for Phil Jones are not an enjoyable read. Only twice has he managed to play over 25 games in all competitions, with one of those seasons being his first season with United. In fact, Jones has never managed to play more than the 41 appearances in a season that he achieved in the 2011/2012 season. Putting this into context, Phil Jones has started in 118 Premier League games in six seasons so far, averaging 19 starts per year. In comparison a player who joined the same year, David De Gea has made 192 Premier League starts, averaging 32 games per season. For two players who were both bought with the intention of being future first team starters, there is a huge difference.

But this season had the intention of being different. Jones himself stated that in the last few months of Louis van Gaal’s reign he was fully fit but not used. Then injuries to Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling saw him build up an incredible understanding with Marcos Rojo. This partnership reminded us of the talents that Jones has, the strength, the power, the surprising ability on the ball and his leadership qualities. Fans were allowed to dream and once again fall into this promise of our centre back issues being resolved without even purchasing another player. With the correct partner with him, he made an incredible contribution with his interceptions and his tackles. Only losing one game in 22, coincidentally (or not) Phil Jones’s re-introduction into the team saw Manchester United go on a 17 game unbeaten run in all competitions.

But once again fans have been abruptly woken up from this dream by finding out the news that another injury has been obtained by Jones. Uncertainty surrounding the rest of his season and once again not able to offer his team any of the qualities we know he is capable of. Does this mean that United should accept a transfer off if a team was to offer based on this season’s performances? Well if a team was to offer somewhere close to the fee originally paid for him (around £16.5 million) it would be interesting to see if Mourinho would turn this down. But a fee any lower would always run the risk of him moving to another Premier League club for a cut price and then strive there.

With this in mind is it worth changing the approach to his style of play? Should “be wrapped in bubble wrap” as the phrase goes? Well, Bournemouth’s treatment of Jack Wilshere this season may provide a good blueprint for the management of Phil Jones if that route is taken. Their change in training style has allowed Wilshere to play in more matches, whether this would work with Phil Jones would be very interesting. After all if meant he could play in more matches and provide a more telling contribution for the forthcoming years surely that would be better than cutting losses and losing him for around 10 million? Or should whatever offer is made just be taken and used towards a new player? The answers to these questions will be very different for many but either way, a risk has to be taken in relation to his United situation.

Written by Anthony Withington

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