There is one man that has seen his career revitalised under new manager Jose Mourinho, and that man is Phil Jones.
Jones signed for the club under Sir Alex Ferguson, who lured him away from Blackburn Rovers in June 2011 for a fee of £16.5 million. Ferguson once described Jones as having the potential to be “our best ever player,” a quote that has been mocked in recent years. However, this abuse has not been because of poor performances by Jones, but instead because he has barely seen the field since Ferguson retired after the 2013 Premier League winning season.
Since the 2013-2014 campaign under David Moyes, a season that many United fans wish to forget, Jones has missed a total of 71 games through injury or illness. His inability to stay fit has caused many United fans to question whether or not Jones should still be at the club, with former manager Louis van Gaal even signing Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind, two centre-backs, when the Dutchman first arrived.
Jones featured only 10 times for the Red Devils last season, his lowest ever appearance total since signing with the club. His lack of playing time due to injury and illness caused a lot of United fans to believe Jones had no future under new manager Jose Mourinho, but that has proved to be far from the truth in recent weeks.
This campaign, Jones has already made 12 appearances, two more than his total all of last season. Not only has Jones been playing and starting, he has looked rock solid in defense, featuring mostly alongside Argentinian Marcos Rojo. Rumors circulated this summer that the pair could be surplus to requirements under Mourinho, but the manager decided otherwise, choosing to give both defenders a chance to prove their worth under new leadership.
So, what has led to Phil Jones’ resurgence under new manager Jose Mourinho? It has a lot to do with the English international simply staying fit. Sir Alex Ferguson would not have said Jones had the potential to be United’s best ever player if he did not see something extremely special in him. Lack of game time and countless injury setbacks have certainly hampered Jones’ career, but he is still only 24. Many forget that he signed for United at 19 and jumped straight into a team that lost the title only because of a late Sergio Aguero goal in the last-minute of the season.
Mourinho recently said in a press conference that, when he first arrived at Old Trafford, Jones was not ready to play in his team. The manager went on to say that he and his staff worked with the defender behind closed doors until he felt Jones was ready to make his first appearance against Swansea last November. Since that game, Jones has not looked back, going on to make 11 appearances and, most importantly, stay fit.
Phil Jones has looked like a totally different player this season. It must be admired that Mourinho put his faith in a player many deemed not good enough to play for Manchester United. Instead, the new manager saw something in Jones and is now reaping the benefits of some fine performances from the English defender this season. Maybe Sir Alex was right after all.
Written by Jacob Turner