When Phil Jones signed from Blackburn Rovers back in 2011 for around £16.5million United fans believed they had a star on the books. In fact, many of the professionals held similar opinions. Sam Allardyce was one of his biggest advocates, tipping the then teenager for a bright future in the game. At one point the new England manager looked fully justified in his claims. Jones started life at Old Trafford in fine fettle, impressing supporters and pundits alike with a series of brave and impressive performances. But something along the way went awry. The once ‘future captain for club and country’ has quickly become an enigma on the pitch (perhaps this explains his hairstyle, so we know it is actually him out there) and now his Manchester United career looks seriously in doubt.
It’s a crying shame that things have gone this way for the Preston-born defender. He looked the perfect replacement for Rio Ferdinand at one point, with all the bravery and steel of Nemanja Vidic thrown in for good measure. These days he’s being kept out of the first team by Daley Blind (a defensive midfielder or left back) and Eric Bailly (a Premier League novice) and has been far surpassed by Chris Smalling developmentally. Things can’t get much worse for Jones.
The Manchester Evening News lead with the story that his days in red are numbered, and it’s hard to disbelieve the claims. At just 24, Jones has spent a staggering amount of time on the physio’s table. He’s making the average Sunday League player look the picture of health and fitness. It’s this unwanted record that holds the answer to the question ‘whatever happened to Phil Jones?’ It’s the reason everything has gone ‘belly up’ (for want of a better phrase) for the Centre Back who is surely on borrowed time at Old Trafford now. You’d sooner keep Marcos Rojo over him as at least Rojo makes it onto the pitch.
Things could have been so different for him, though. Had he not been born made of a fine porcelain but with the bravery of a lion then maybe the injuries would not have been so frequent. Or even just controlling the reckless lack of respect for his own personal safety (performing a front crawl to head a ball on the floor being just one example of this lack of regard) could have curbed them at the very least. It’s been said time and again, aggression is all well and good so long as it is controlled. Where he may share that attribute with the imperious Serb he looked to replace in the heart of the defence, he clearly didn’t do enough to study the discipline of this most noble an art whilst the chance was there.
All hope is not lost mind. Yes, his career is currently hanging in the balance, but if he were able to prove his fitness – go a spell of more than three days without hurting himself for instance – then perhaps there is a way back in for the Tin Tin wannabe. Should he fail to do this then his name will forever be etched into the history books as one of the greatest disappointments in recent history. The beginning looked promising, but the present couldn’t be much farther from it. Second chances have long been taken, now is the time for Jones to make up for lost time.