Since signing from Blackburn Rovers in June 2011, Phil Jones has endured a tragic fall from grace. From a player lauded by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 as someone with the potential to be ‘our best ever player’, Jones now finds himself on the fringes of Mourinho’s first team plans.
Known for his physical prowess, leadership, and adaptability, Jones was a key tactical component in Sir Alex Ferguson’s twilight years, often filling in at centre-back, right-back and as a defensive midfielder. However, it was debated by fans that his versatility was stunting Jones’ development.
The chance to nail down a position seemingly came in the 2014-2015 season when club legends Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic both left the club for pastures new. Under Louis van Gaal, Jones and Smalling were envisaged as being the long-term defensive pairing for both club and country. The stage was set for Phil Jones to go on and fulfill his potential.
Whilst Chris Smalling’s development (arguably the less talented of two) has skyrocketed, Jones’ career has ground to a halt.
After being plagued by injuries, Jones has only managed to amass 37 appearances across all competitions in two seasons. Moreover, when he is fit, Jones has seemingly digressed into a sloppy shadow of the promising youngster he used to be. For example, see this comical video of Jones slipping and clambering after the ball against Arsenal.
At 24, you’d expect his best years are still ahead of him. However with Smalling, Blind, and now Bailly all ahead of him in the pecking order, Jones faces an uphill climb to break into the first team.
With Mourinho needing to place a focus on youth development, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see youngsters Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe soon being picked before Jones. After all, with the abundance of young, talented and fit talent in the side, why should Mourinho give the nod to a player who contributes so little at the moment?
The best course of action for his career would undoubtedly be a loan move; the chance to re-establish himself and get some minutes under his belt. He wouldn’t be short of suitors either, with Stoke City already publicising an interest in Jones in the recent summer transfer window.
Although he’s showcased his ability in the past, fundamentally Jones needs to stay fit. Owen Hargreaves is a classic example of a terrific player who simply couldn’t stay fit. Although you can’t completely control the circumstances that lead to injuries, Jones needs to reserve from throwing his brittle body into everything.
For a player with such an abundance of potential, it’d be a real shame to see him digress into a ‘what if.’ With a wealth of talent in front of him, Phil Jones would be best served seeking a loan move in the January transfer window in a bid to revive his career.
Written by Will Darby