Manchester United’s often maligned central defender, Phil Jones, made a return to the United setup against Swansea City, and he was quietly impressive on the day. The announcement that Jones would be starting sparked quite the controversy on United twitter, but Jones’ solid performance was one of the aspects of United’s play that was least talked about at the end of the game. Often, when a defender isn’t spoken about, it is a good sign.
Jose Mourinho praised Jones for being quick to jump into the first team setup, and Jones seemed happy to be playing football again too, saying it was tough not to be involved for so long. Sharing his struggle with injuries with the world. Jones seems happy to keep working hard and trying to earn his place in the side, if not because he said so.
“I’m delighted to have started. I worked hard to get to where I am, it’s been a difficult few months. Watching the lads play and not being able to be involved was tough, but today was a really good feeling for me.
“It’s been a nightmare. It’s been difficult for me but all I can do is keep plugging away and never give up. Today is an example; I’ve worked so hard to get back and play in games like that. It’s what I love doing. I just want to play as many games as possible, if the manager sees that I’m fit enough to play and doing a good job for him, I’m delighted to be playing again.”
Asked if he felt the effects of the layoff during the match, Jones replied humorously, though his comments will cause nerves for United supporters who, while being critical of his fitness problems, want to see him maintain form and establish himself as the player everyone knows he can be. After all these years, Jones remains 24 years of age.
“Yeah, I suppose I was towards the end! Your calves go or your hamstring is a bit tight, but it’s just great to be back with a few scrapes and bruises on my legs again. It’ll be nice to wake up a bit sore in the morning and remember what it feels like.”
Finally, Jones expressed the urgent need for United to string a couple of wins together, because of the slow start Mourinho’s men have experienced. He gave credit to Swansea, a team he believes can be talented on their day, but he knows that United should be performing at a higher standard, and he believes the level will be reached eventually.
“That was one of the best attacking displays we’ve produced this season. We created chance after chance and carved them open. People will say that Swansea are near the bottom of the league but, believe me, it’s not an easy place to come, I’ve been here plenty of times and it’s not easy.
“We need to [go on a run] because it wasn’t good enough against Fenerbahce and we know that. We’ve had to dust ourselves down quickly, everyone from the manager to the players and staff – we went again today and that’s what we’ll keep doing. If we keep plugging away, we’ll get results.”
While there have been many questions about Jones at United over the years, he is undoubtedly a talented footballer who shows his passion on the pitch. Many have thought for years that he is a season of consistent football away from being a world class defender, and he is statistically incredible. As much as I have said that Jones should not be at the club, it was great to see him back, and if he can string together some good performances, he could force himself into the setup on a permanent basis. A partnership of Jones and Eric Bailly could prove to be very, very solid going forward, though that is somewhat of a dream scenario.
Mourinho has been a massive advocate for passion in recent weeks at United, and Phil Jones seems to be showing that in abundance. He has the tools to be a great defender, but now is the time for him to start up the talents. He has played some very, very good matches for United, and we can only hope that those will be the ingredients for a consistently very good player.