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Phil Jones – time to let him go?

Phil Jones at 18 years old was thrown into the deep end on his Premier League debut for Blackburn Rovers, impressing in a 1-1 draw against Chelsea, he made nine Premier League appearances and also three in the domestic cups in his first season. Jones continued to catch the eye in the 2010/2011, starring mostly in an unfamiliar defensive midfield role for Blackburn that season, something that would continue at times at Manchester United. Unfortunately, a sign of things to come came in that season where Jones suffered a torn knee cartilage in December, ruling him out for the rest of the season. Jones made his return earlier than expected though, and played out the rest of the season at Blackburn, making 26 league appearances, despite being injured for three months.

Phil Jones reportedly had a release clause around £16 million and that was triggered by United. Jones’ competitive debut was an eventful one, as United found themselves 2-0 down at half time in the FA Community Shield against Manchester City. Jones came on as a second-half substitute and helped United turn things around, winning 3-2 in a thrilling curtain raiser for the upcoming Premier League season.

United’s brand of football early in the 2011-2012 was wonderfully exciting, there was a youthful and vibrant look about the team, David De Gea between the sticks, youthful defence with Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans. Anderson and Tom Cleverley in midfield had us playing at a really high tempo, Welbeck before his injury and then Chicharito gave us that pace in behind, and that was creating space for Wayne Rooney, who had a phenomenal start to the season, in my opinion to this day it was one of his best runs. Rooney scored in each of the first five games of the season, including two hat-tricks in a row, in the 5-0 win away to Bolton and the famous 8-2 victory over Arsenal at Old Trafford.

It looked like Sir Alex Ferguson was building another team and Phil Jones was at the forefront of that. However injuries have been a constant problem and the time of all of us hoping he would become a world-class defender, has seemingly passed. Phil Jones has made only 119 league appearances since signing for United in 2011. It seems to be a case of what could’ve been.

Let’s not forget some of the comparisons Jones has received, he was continuously compared with late great Duncan Edwards. In 2011 then England manager Fabio Capello compared him with former Real Madrid and Spain captain Fernando Hierro, and also Milan and Italy great, Franco Baresi. Then, of course, in 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson said the way he is looking, he could be United’s best ever player. Has that affected Jones? Impossible to say, perhaps, but it shows the promise and talent he once possessed. One thing I see from him now is that he still makes the same mistakes he did, he’s still very rash, the penalty he conceded at home to Bournemouth this season comes to mind, and at 25 years old and been at United for six years, you’d hope that would be ironed out by now. In fairness to Jones though, he has been quite impressive when Jose Mourinho has used him.

So in summary, I do think it’s time to let him go. Who knows, at a smaller club with expectations not as high, he could turn out to become a good Premier League centre-half. United have a lot of former central defenders leave and perform at a high level in the Premier League, Jonny Evans was having quite a tough time at United and he went to West Brom and is doing really well for himself, Michael Keane has had a great season, been solid helping Burnley stay up, now it looks like he will be getting a big move in the summer, possibly, back to United. Then others like Ryan Shawcross who’s been ever-present for Stoke since they got promoted in to the Premier League. The point is I think Jones could still make a pretty good career for himself elsewhere, and I think that’s best for all parties.

Written by Anthony Bennett

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