Phil Jones: The Cruelty of Injuries

Manchester United managed to strengthen the defensive options of the team in the summer transfer window, securing the signing of Raphael Varane from Real Madrid. This signing has seemingly sorted United’s centre-back options for the foreseeable future, however it’s only casted more doubts on long serving defender Phil Jones, who has become something of a forgotten man at the club. 

The Englishmen, who has been at the club since 2011, last featured for United in a 6-0 FA Cup win over Tranmere Rovers in January 2020. This means that as of the start of the 2021/22 season, Jones hasn’t featured in a competitive game for over 18 months now.

Just recently Jones was thrust back into the spotlight again after comments emerged from legendary United defender Rio Ferdinand. The now retired Ferdinand claimed that Jones should leave the club on a free after his failure to make a single competitive appearance in the last 18 months

The current understanding of Jones’s contract situation is that he is on around £100,000 a week with a deal that lasts until 2023, essentially making him an unfeasible asset for potential suitors due to his incredibly high wage. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got wind of Ferdinand’s comments and publicly came to his players defence in a press conference. 

Solskjaer claimed that his ex-teammate was “out of order” and continued by saying that Jones had faced a difficult road to fitness after a spate of injuries, likening Jones’s situation to his own experiences as a player. It therefore seems Jones is symptomatic of an issue United have faced for several years now, in the fact that there are too many players on high wages that just don’t play consistently or to a level that justifies their costs.

However, it would be unfair to say Jones has always lacked quality, there was a time when the defender looked like he could be a pillar of United’s defence for years to come. Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly first became interested in Jones’s after witnessing an impressive performance showcasing his leadership qualities in a 1-1 draw against United

In 2013, Ferguson claimed Jones could have been one of “our best players ever”, evoking memories of Duncan Edwards according to Bobby Charlton. It’s easy to see why Jones was touted to be a top player, he had a good amount of pace about him and was intelligent in reading the game. 

Unfortunately, a lack of game time and a defence that has never been sure of itself meant that Jones never really established himself as a top player even when he had injury free stints. Often playing next to former United defender Chris Smalling, the pair garnered a reputation for sometimes being unreliable and not of United’s high quality.

The main issue for Jones came in the form of injuries, in the last six seasons alone the player has picked up a total of 15 injuries- a ridiculous amount compared to the average player. Several of these injuries included ankle, hamstring and knee problems, which are renowned for keeping players out for extended durations.

Jones’s latest affliction is a knee problem, which has kept him out since early 2020 as mentioned previously, and it seems as if even when fit it’ll be difficult to get back into the United setup with all the defensive options available to Solskjaer. 

Football is a cruel game and is capable of robbing talented players of a fruitful career, it looks as if Jones may be one such victim with future playing time looking restricted at United.

This being said, there are clubs who would be willing to take a chance on the player if he can prove his fitness. The issue has always been wage demands, and it’s inevitable he would have to accept a huge wage reduction wherever he moves. 

United themselves will likely be happy to get the wages off the books, but the club’s treatment of Jones is a testament to the morality and understanding at the heart of United, although some would argue that this is a reason the club isn’t ruthless enough and why United have lost the winning mentality in recent years.

 Overall, the most likely destination for Jones is a lower tier Premier League club such as a Burnley or a more defensively orientated team, Jones could excel as a leader in a team like this. It’s likely the earliest Jones’s future will be sorted out is next summer, as player moves are rare in the January window, and it’s highly likely it’ll be a future away from United. 

Whatever happens to Jones, it’s clear deep down underneath the mess of injuries is a player capable of playing at a good level, and with a shot of confidence mixed with a dash of luck there could be a resurgence for the Englishmen somewhere in the not too distant future.

Written by Sam Wilson

Manchester United’s deadwood problem

Since Sir Alex Ferguson left Manchester United eight years ago, United’s recruitment has been questionable; there’s been some great signings like Bruno Fernandes but some terrible signings like Alexis Sanchez. These recruitment issues have caused a major build-up of deadwood in the United ranks over the years leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a lot of the previous manager’s mess. 

Subsequently this causes an influx of players to be left at United who are clearly not good enough, but they are eating the wages up, increasing United’s overall wage bill making it harder to offload these players and thus harder to recruit other players because the wage bill needs to be lowered.

The root to this problem is the structure at the club. Once Ferguson retired, a lot of the footballing men at the club also left. leaving a complex hierarchy that needs experienced personnel with the football clubs’ best interests at heart, to the role of businessmen. These businessmen include Matt Judge and Ed Woodward in particular. 

The main issue with these businessmen is priorities. Their priority is capital, and what will save and raise the most amount of money as possible. They don’t put the team’s best interests at heart but more the club’s financial position treating it like a business. 

As a result, when in the transfer window, despite the managers best wishes, players can be signed due to their public relations value rather than their footballing ability. Signings like Alexis Sanchez and Angel Di Maria where PR signings that were there to please the fans resulting in huge shirt sales and media attention. 

This doesn’t help the team at all as it can often mean bringing in a player that doesn’t have his heart set on a move and thus doesn’t respect the United shirt enough and soon becomes deadwood as their effort levels drop. To combat this, Solskjaer has started a rebuild on the team as well as the actual structure at United bringing in Darren Fletcher and John Murtough into roles that footballing men are more suited to. 

Murtough was recently hired as the ‘football director’ who’s role is to discusses directly with Solskjaer on targets before the negotiators approach the club and player. Previously, Woodward had had a lot of power in these situations, and this led to the deadwood being brought in but now with a footballing man discussing these transfers it can help reduce this. However, as seen with this current transfer window, despite the changes in structure, United are still struggling to sell off their deadwood. 

This is due to the astronomical wages these players have been put on under the poor recruitment. In previous years, too many signings were because of money rather than the passion and desire to play for the club. This summer the approach has changed as United are bringing in players like Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo who are all players who are hungry and want to play for the club. This is a testament to Solskjaer’s progression with the rebuild as players of this calibre were not signing for United previously. 

With these new signings having a real desire to play for United, it means the club doesn’t have to offer them huge wages making them harder to sell off in the future. To ensure that this deadwood problem doesn’t get worse, Solskjaer must keep only looking at players who will fight for the badge and aren’t in it for the money. 

Solskjaer and United should keep looking at upgrading the recruitment and changing staff to fit the clubs DNA and morals better. These gradual changes will ultimately make United a much better run club in general taking them back to the efficiency under Ferguson. 

At the club now there’s several players that United need to ship out. This includes Phil Jones, Andreas Pereira, Diogo Dalot, arguably Juan Mata and potentially Jesse Lingard and Nemanja Matic. Some view Mata as a vital member of the squad especially for his presence in the dressing room and thus not to be considered as deadwood, whereas others perceive him as past his best and now eating up wages. 

Lingard, on the other hand, is loved by a lot of United fans but could become deadwood if he stays at United because he’s unlikely to get many minutes for the team. Meanwhile, with the injury of Scott McTominay and the unlikely chance that a midfielder comes in so late in the window, Matic could prove a crucial part of the squad especially as he’s the only natural defensive midfielder. 

However, some feel due to his age he’s no longer at his best and can be a liability. Due to his unique skill set that United currently lack, I feel he is more important than some people realise and could be key for United this season so shouldn’t be sold off unless another defensive midfielder is brought in. Diogo Dalot is still a young player being only 22 and with Aaron Wan-Bissaka lacking competition some feel he must stay. 

Solskjaer, on the other hand, doesn’t seem particularly satisfied with Dalot and looks keen to get him out on loan or permanently sell him and thus he might be seen as deadwood especially in Solskjaer’s eyes. A player Solskjaer has looked at with great interest is Kieran Trippier. He’s a 30-year-old English right-back playing for Atletico Madrid in Spain and being a Manchester boy would love to go to United. 

This would fit the requirements that Solskjaer is trying to create as despite his age he would work incredibly hard and provide great competition for Wan-Bissaka. Therefore, if United can move Dalot on loan, that could open the opportunity to bring in Trippier who would strengthen the right-hand side even more. With Phil Jones and Andreas Pereira, most fans believe they are deadwood and their time at the club is up. Since Fernandes’ arrival, Pereira has barely had a look in and was loaned off out to Lazio last year but wasn’t majorly successful. 

If Lingard is to stay at the club, he would be third choice which would be a waste of his time and United’s. Phil Jones at one point looked like he could be a great player with Sir Alex Ferguson saying “I think Jones may be one of the best players we have ever had.” But he’s been plagued with injuries in the last couple years and with the recent signing of Raphael Varane it just pushes him further down the pecking order. Jones is on high wages, and many believe he must go as he’ll never play and is wasted at the club but due to his horrendous injury record and high wages it’s difficult to find any suitors. 

Overall, I feel the structure at this club is improving under Solskjaer’s management and with more time he could make it more and more effective. United must focus on only bringing in players that want to play for the club and keeping the wage bill down else they’ll struggle with deadwood issues again as they can’t ship these players off as their wages are too high. 

Then to keep taking this team forward, Solskjaer must get Pereira and Jones out definitely and then look to ease out Dalot, Lingard, Matic and Mata in the coming years if suitable replacements are available as it’ll reduce the wage bill and as these players are getting older it will bring fresh impetus into the club which could lead to a successful tenure for Manchester United under Solskjaer.

Written by Ethan Bents

Does Phil Jones have something to offer Manchester United or is his time at the club over?

Phil Jones has been a Manchester United player for a decade now. He signed for the Old Trafford club on the 13 June 2011 in a £16 million deal with Blackburn Rovers. Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager at the time, was interested in signing Raphaël Varane from Racing Club de Lens but the Frenchman signed for Real Madrid instead, signing a six-year deal with a fee in the region of €10 million. Varane signed for the Madrid club two weeks after Jones signed for United, but Ferguson would have found out some time before that the Frenchman was not interested in signing for United at the time. The strange thing is this summer that United are still interested in Varane, if he does leave the Spanish club, which at this time seems likely, according to rumours. However, I don’t think he will sign for United and the club should focus on what is needed this summer.

Jones have played a total of 280 times for United, scoring six goals and 11 assists in his time at the club, however, 16 of those appearances came playing for the U23 and reserve sides over the past decade, which tended to be the player recovering from many of the injuries that he has sustained whilst playing for the club. The player, now 29, has missed 204 matches for the club, suffering from 23 different injuries and illnesses in that time. In all, he has been unavailable for 36% of matches played due to illness and injury, which is not a good sign for a player who has benefited from many chances at the club and still has a contract that expires in two years, which also has an option for a third to be added. It makes it look like the ownership of the club would rather keep what they have rather than ditching and signing better.

Does Phil Jones still have something to offer for Manchester United?

Jones has been a good player for United, despite the criticism that he has received. It is one of just a few players who have been regularly playing in the first team since Ferguson’s time as manager. The 29-year-old is experienced and was a full England international before injuries started to thwart his career, which has been a problem almost since he signed for the club. During his time at United, Jones has won one Premier League title, one Emirates FA Cup, two FA Community Shields and one UEFA Europa League. He is one of two players at the club to have survived since United’s last league title in Ferguson’s final season as manager of the club. United need experience in the team and Jones has that, but he’s experience in injuries too, which is not as good. I think he could offer something moving forward, but can understand why many would like to see him sold.

United are heading into an important season with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still seeking to win his first trophy for the club. During the 2019/20 season, there was signs of massive improvement in the squad, especially after Bruno Fernandes was signed in January 2020. The club had a problem winning semi-final matches, which was ended in the 2020/21 season with the club reaching the final of the UEFA Europa League but were beaten 11-10 on penalties after a 1-1 draw after extra time, which saw Solskjaer on the receiving end of hatred from the supporters that are the be all and end of of United – mainly YouTubers and Twitter fans who seem to do nothing but moan and change their stories time and time again – seemingly doing it so they are only ever right and not really looking or sounding like supporters of the club.

Is Phil Jones’ time at Manchester United coming to an end?

Jones last played for United in the 6-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers in the Emirates FA Cup on the 26 January 2020, having made just eight appearances, scoring one goal in the 2019/20 season. The fact that he spent the rest of the season and the full 2020/21 season out of action would suggest that it would be tough for him to get back into the United squad, especially if Solskjaer signed a new central defender this summer. Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are currently the first-choice with Axel Tuanzebe and Eric Bailly both considered back up to the pair. Will Fish has also been utilised in recent times, making his debut in the final match of the Premier League last season. Teden Mengi is also coming through the ranks too, so at a point in the not too distant future, providing the longer players keep developing, Jones might be out of contention permanently.

Gone are the days of Chris Smalling and Jones being talked about as being comparative successors for the likes of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. Smalling left the club permanently during the summer of 2019 as United signed Maguire as a world record fee for a defender from Leicester City that summer. Lindelof seems to be better than Jones and Bailly too, if he can stay fit, which has also been a problem with the Ivorian absent due to injury for 33.4% of his career, which is five years shorter than Jones’. Bailly has only recently made his 106th appearance for the club, missing 99 matches due to injury, which shows that United’s defence is still going to be a liability based on injury. Maguire ended the season on the sidelines, but in two years at the club, he’s missed just 5.7% of matches due to injury – Lindelof has missed just 4.3% of matches due to injury.


Phil Jones has had a good career at United and certainly seems to have found some fans in the Glazers, as he has been rewarded with new contracts, even when there was a time that his contract was about to run out and boom, a new contract was offered and signed. In the time that has passed since the summer of 2016, Jones has made 83 appearances, scoring one goal and no assists – that is in five seasons when a total of 295 matches were played by the club, with Jose Mourinho and Solskjaer being the managers of the club at the time. It would seem that Jones has not done enough to warrant a place in the squad any more and the interest that has been out there for him could be a good time to offload the player and try something new. With youth coming through the ranks, they should be afforded chances more than Jones.

This summer there is reported interest from both Newcastle United and West Ham United for Jones, which would be a good transfer for him. Newcastle are seeking to better themselves and the Hammers have done that and will need experience in their squad for the UEFA Europa League next season. Jesse Lingard re-found his form at West Ham during the 2020/21 season, scoring nine goals and five assists in the Premier League in 16 appearances for the club, which would have been good for the player. Jones could look at that and find a way for him to rebuild his flailing career with chances seemingly out of reach for him, looking at the current defence, the rumours of a new signing this summer and the class of the youth players coming through the ranks. It could well be that Jones leaves United this summer, which would be best for both him and the club.

Written by John Walker

Manchester United might need to offload six more players this summer

Manchester United have a 31-man first team squad at this moment in time which consists of experienced players and players who have come through the clubs academy, that might yet be loaned out this summer. If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is going to bring in more new faces to join Donny van de Beek at the Old Trafford club, he might yet need to clear a few more players out from the club to make room. United need an injection of quality this summer as other than the starting XI and a few other players, there is a severe lack of quality in the squad.

It is possible that six players could leave the club this summer, even after Alexis Sanchez, who left as a free agent and signed for Inter Milan. Chris Smalling is linked with an exit to AS Roma, a club that he spent last season on loan with, which saw him quickly find his feet in Italy and look to be heading back to his best after a turbulent few years at United. Two other defenders could be on their last legs at United; Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones. Rojo was loaned out to Estudiantes in January with Jones missing much of the season due to injury, again.

Solskjaer may not allow three central defenders to leave the club this summer, without one coming in although Axel Tuanzebe should be fit this month and Solskjaer has Teden Mengi coming through the ranks in the academy but one signing would be good this summer, if a player is available that would benefit the squad. United cannot continue with Rojo and Jones at the club though and will need to part ways with them sooner or later as they do not offer much benefit in the squad moving forward.

Andreas Pereira is another player who could find it hard to continue at United as the club has better players that him on the squad. The arrival of Bruno Fernandes in January made things hard for Pereira and Van de Beek’s arrival has made it even more difficult for him. Pereira has passion but in terms of what kind of player he is, it is not all that obvious as he’s played defensive midfield, central midfield, attacking midfield and even as a winger – he just does not seem to have an established role at United.

Jesse Lingard is another player that would benefit away from Old Trafford, as would United benefit from his departure. I have nothing against him but over the last two years or so, there has been little output from the player – he literally scored his first Premier League goal of the season in United’s final game against Leicester City. Off the field, his life had been dealt a blow with the illness of his mother but that is not excuse not to put in the work and find the form needed to be a footballer. United would be much better off if they could find a buyer for the player.

The last of the six players is Sergio Romero. It is not ideal that he might leave the club as for the past five years he has been the best number two goalkeeper in the Premier League. The Argentinian has been linked to Everton, Leeds United, Aston Villa and Chelsea, although the latter does not seem to be a viable option with the club looking at alternatives. There was suggestion that Villa were close to completing a deal for the player last week but nothing has happened yet.

Solskjaer has been seeking to rebuild United since he replaced Jose Mourinho as the manager of the club in December 2018 after his sacking. He initially did well then in March 2019 he was made the permanent manager and things stuttered that season with United seeking to make improvements during the 2019/20 season. The season started well, stuttered again but after Fernandes’ arrival, United changed completely and earned a third-placed finish in the Premier League, earning UEFA Champions League football for the 2020/21 season.

So far this summer, United have signed Van de Beek from Ajax. They have been linked to Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund all summer but the deadline to sign the player elapsed with the German club seeming determined to keep the player for the 2020/21 season. United still have him as their number one target though. With the midfield the best it has been since Sir Alex Ferguson managed the club, signing a central defender, aa left-back, a right-winger and a striker would be good for the club but only so much can happen this summer.

Written by John Walker

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must offload players to make Jadon Sancho signing

Manchester United must offload a string of players the summer in order to compete the signing of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund. United will need to pay £108 million for the 20-year-old and now that their season has come to an end, a year and five days since it started, the club will now have the time to engage in the summer transfer market in a bid to strengthen the squad this summer, adding players that will make the difference, not stutter and end up failing, like some of the current squad.

The Standard has claimed that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must end some careers at the club in order to have sufficient funds to get deals across the line this summer. Despite the supposed deadline to sign Sancho passing a week ago, United are still seeking to sign the English winger and are quickly coming to terms with the fact that they will need to pay the price that Dortmund want to receive for the player. Which is the position that should have been in before the deadline expired.

It is suggested that Solskjaer would like to make to more key signings as United lack depth in some areas, which has been seen by the clubs exit from the UEFA Europa League at the hands of Sevilla after suffering another 2-1 defeat to the Spanish side. It is suggested that a central defender and a midfielder would be brought in, in addition to Sancho, if the club managed to get Dortmund to part company with the player after the supposed deadline expired a week ago.

It has been stated that in the midfield area, both Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira have no future at the Old Trafford club. Both players have been at the club for a number of years and in the past two seasons, both players have not done enough to warrant a place in United’s squad. United will need to have strength in depth at the club and having players that can make a difference will be needed and both Lingard and Pereira have failed to do that when it matters the most.

In defence, United also have a number of players who are not adding much to the squad right now. These players are Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Diogo Dalot. Granted, Smalling has been on loan during the 2019/20 season, playing for AS Roma and there is a chance that the club could permanently sign the defender this summer, although Inter Milan are said to be interested too. Rojo was loaned out in January too. But for Jones and Dalot, neither have been involved much this season.

Solskjaer recently spoke about the summer transfer window, which so far the club have not made a move and will need to do so during the next month in order to have players in at the club before the new Premier League season starts. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, it is suggested that United are losing out on £4 million per home match with supporters not yet allowed into stadiums. The Sun quoted Solskjaer as saying:

“I cannot say when or if transfers will be done, but we are looking at it. We have to be 100 per cent sure when we make those deals.

“It’s not about a marquee signing, it’s about quality. The right personality that fits into the group.”

Written by John Walker

Manchester United opt against surgery for Phil Jones as they look to sell him

Manchester United have reportedly decided against surgery for Phil Jones who has been on the sidelines with a knee injury. The injury would keep the player out of the UEFA Europa League, which is why he did not travel with the rest of the squad to Germany ahead of their quarter-final against FC Cologne on Monday evening. Surgery would rule the player out of action until the New Year. The player was scheduled to undergo surgery on Sunday with medical staff seeking rehabilitation instead.

The Mirror has reported the news on the day that the United squad headed out to Cologne ahead of Monday’s class with the Danish side in a bid to reach the semi-final of the competition with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seeking to win his first trophy as manager of the club. United are said to be seeking a buyer for Jones, 28, who signed for the club nine years ago from Blackburn Rovers for £16 million. The player has not been used by Solskjaer much this season. Solskjaer, talking about Jones, said:

Phil [Jones] has been following an individualised training programme during the post-lockdown period to optimise recovery from a knee problem

It was a good opportunity as we had sufficient cover in defensive positions for the remaining Premier League games and he will continue to work with a fitness coach at the Aon Training Complex, while the squad are in Germany.

During the 2019/20 season, Jones made a total of eight appearances for United, playing 562 minutes of football. He contributed one goal, against Tranmere Rovers in the Emirates FA Cup. Jones last featured for United in the 2-0 defeat to Burnley in January and was on the bench for two further league matches – missing the last 19 matches this season and seemingly set to miss the final few matches of the season in the Europa League. United clearly do not have plans for him moving forward.

Obviously, if Jones needs surgery, it might need to be something he has at his new club, if United find a buyer for him this summer. West Ham United, led by former United manager David Moyes, held interest in Jones and teammate Jesse Lingard but this seems to have been denied by Hammers sources, which is probably the best thing for them to be honest. Neither of these players are going to make West Ham a better club. There has to be some interest in Jones this summer.

However, the player being injured and needing surgery might be a major problem in United offloading the player, who still has three years remaining on his contract with the option of another year. United could be stuck with the player for the remainder of that contract. On hindsight, United should have let the player leave on the expiry of his last contract with with the Glazers aiming to save money, both Jones and Chris Smalling were rewarded with new contracts at United.

In his time at United, Jones has made just 224 appearances for the club, scoring six goals and 10 assists. This works out to fewer than 25 appearances each season at United which shows that he has had problems at United for a prolonged period time. Jones has suffered 19 separate injuries in his time at United which has led to him missing 121 matches for the club. This is not ideal for the player or the club and could pose a massive problem with United trying to offload the player this summer.

Written by John Walker

Manchester United put six players on transfer list ahead of summer window opening – reports

Manchester United are willing to listen to offers for six first team players as they look to raise money to fund further transfers this summer, also clearing the wage bill to make way for any new faces the club brings in this summer. Reports have suggested that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has seemingly ended the United careers of these players.

United are said to be welcoming bids for Alexis Sanchez, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard and Diogo Dalot with Solskjaer keen to bolster his squad ahead of an new era at the club, which started with his appointment after the sacking of Jose Mourinho in December 2018. The Norwegian has helped six players out of the door already.

Solskjaer is keen to get United ticking again, like they did in his days as a player for the club, then led by Sir Alex Ferguson, a manager that Solskjaer would like to emulate at the club and could do with full support of the Scotsman. We have seen from recent matches that fast-paced attacking football is the style that he wants at the club.

Solskjaer, albeit temporarily, got rid of Smalling and Sanchez for the current season on loan with the club seemingly interested in ending the careers of the duo at United, if clubs would like to purchase them. Sanchez would be the harder of the two to get rid of because of his high wages. Smalling would like to remain in Italy past this season.

Rojo has not played much football this season and was loaned to Estudiantes in Argentines during the January transfer window with Jones not playing much football at all, being injured since the Premier League resumed last month and possible unlikely to have any further involvement with the club this season.

Lingard has fallen down the pecking order massively as what he has offered the club during Solskjaer’s tenure at the club, and before that, is lacking what is needed from a player representing United and you can see he’s not in the Norwegian’s plans as he has no involvement in matches, last playing against Norwich City in the FA Cup last month.

In regards to Dalot, his United career is two years in the making and it might be harsh to let him go so soon but he’s not going to get past Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the right-back position or either Luke Shaw or Brandon Williams in the left-back role. Solskjaer has used him further forward but that did not work out for him either.

Solskjaer seems to see more in Ethan Laird, who has been training with the first team for a while now, which says more about Dalot. Not every player will make it work at United, especially after coming to the club under the watch of a different manager, who had high hopes for the player. Solskjaer knows what he wants and what he has not got.

It could well be an exciting summer for United, if they can get different clubs interested in these six players, which could clear the way for some new faces at the club this summer and some places in the squad for some of the younger, talented players within the clubs academy, which is the route to success that Ferguson took all those years ago.

Phil Jones could be offered a chance to join a Serie A club with interest in the out of favour Manchester United defender – reports

Out of favour Manchester United defender Phil Jones is reportedly being lined up for a shock Serie A switch this summer, despite interest from former United manager David Moyes, who is now managing West Ham United, for the second time in his career. The Athletic have suggested that the 28-year-old could follow the steps of Chris Smalling.

Jones has been at United for nearly ten years and despite having one Premier League title, one FA Cup, two FA Community Shields and a UEFA Europa League on his list of honours at the club, based on the prospects he had when he joined United, he should have done so much better as a player but injury kept on coming, something he is affected by now.

This season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s preferred defensive lineup involved both Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire as a central defensive partnership with Eric Bailly as the backup in the squad. Jones has made just eight appearances for United this season, scoring one goal. It shows that his future is not part of Solskjaer’s plans, even when not injured.

It looks as if Axel Tuanzebe, who is out of action until September, could be given a bigger role at the club next season which would suggest that Jones needs to find another club. United also continue to be linked with a mother defender, which may or may not happen this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is clear that Jones needs to find a new club to salvage what is left of his career. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Jones was tipped as a future club captain but his demise under David Moyes continued under both Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho and is continuing now, under Solskjaer. With this many managers not trusting him regularly, it is not a problem with them.

Jones could look at what Smalling has done in Italy, making 32 appearances, scoring two goals and one assist for AS Roma with the player seemingly resurrecting his career in Italy, which is something that Jones could do too, if a club out there is interested in signing Jones, who has three years remaining on his current contract, with the option of a fourth.

Manchester United must sell four or five players to sign the likes of Jadon Sancho this summer – reports

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have to sell four or five players this summer if he is to make a move for Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho, or any other player that would cost the club a lot of money this summer. It is suggested that both Jesse Lingard and Alexis Sanchez will have to be sold.

Obviously, selling the likes of Sanchez and Lingard is not a major problem as one of them has offered slightly more in 18 months than Daniel James has brought to the club in a year, getting wages a lot lower than the Chilean who is clearly on a major decline. Lingard could not even look good against Norwich City on Saturday evening so no loss either.

Some might suggest it is harsh to say these things but I am just being truthful. Solskjaer will need to find buyers for these two players if Sancho is even going to be an option, although Solskjaer has not yet ruled a move out for the player this summer. It could be hard to get a club to sign Sanchez permanently based on his weekly wage at United.

Solskjaer has reportedly been told by Ed Woodward that he will need to clear some of the players he does not want in his squad before he would commit to an approach for Sancho this summer, so presumably, if this is true, Woodward has not yet ruled out a possibility of the club making a move for Sancho this summer.

With the current financial circumstances regarding the coronavirus pandemic, of where the future is uncertain with the fact that nobody knows when supporters will be allowed back into stadiums in the numbers that attended matches before the pandemic, therefore adding to the loss of income for football clubs in terms of match day revenue.

Because of this, United will need to be careful and not overcommit themselves, therefore clearing some big wages and players that do not seem to have a future at the club is the best way to create space for a player who would be costly both in terms of transfer wee and weekly wages, which is a logical way of doing things.

Three other names have been suggested including Andreas Pereira, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. There is a possibility that Smalling could still be sold to AS Roma this summer, if they are able to make it work with United’s valuation of the player more than the Italian club would want to pay, which seems to always be the case with these cheap clubs.

Phil Jones has made just eight appearances for United under Solskjaer this season, which is not enough playing time to even warrant a place for him in the squad. He does have a contract which will expire in the summer of 2023, with the option of another year, so he might be a problem to shift, however, he would be a good signing for Arsenal.

In terms of Pereira, personally I am yet to see a reason why he should retain his place at United. Despite making 38 appearance so far this season, he’s scored just two goals and four assists. His contract expires in 2023, with the option of another year and in terms of creativity, there is little for him to offer the club.

Solskjaer will have a lot to do this summer before the club could make a move for Sancho and it is suggested that the manager does not yet know how much he will have to spend this summer. United obviously need to sign a striker, but Odion Ighalo’s loan spell will expire at the end of January 2021, so the urgency this summer is lower than it could be.

A right-winger is a priority and this could transform United attack considerably, providing the player fits in to Solskjaer’s system and gels with the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Odion Ighalo and Mason Greenwood, not to mention Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, who will offer the creativity from the midfield.

Some suggest that United need a central defender, however, with Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire and Axel Tuanzebe, presuming that one, two, or all of Jones, Smalling and Marcos Rojo leave the club this summer, would be adequate with United utilising the likes of Teden Mengi from the academy, should they be needed.

Looking at Manchester United’s defensive depth for the 2019/20 season

Manchester United did well during the summer transfer window, adding Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who signed from Crystal Palace and Harry Maguire, who arrived from Leicester City. It was a summer that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed to pay attention to the defence, which allowed more than 50 goals to be conceded in the Premier League along last season.

Solskjaer spent £125 million; £80 million for Maguire and an initial £45 million for Wan-Bissaka giving some much-needed defensive ability ahead of the 2019/20 season in which United would be tasked with chasing the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, to regain a place in the top four of the league.

United finished sixth last season, five points adrift of a place in the top four, which could have been much different if United managed to beat both Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City at the end of the season. However, hindsight is only fantastic when you look back as if you change two factors, other factors may have had to change also.

Goalkeeper depth; Solskjaer does not need to worry in this area.

Solskjaer has three great first-team options in goal this season; David De Gea, Sergio Romero and Lee Grant. That will be the order of importance in the squad. The club also had the likes of Dean Henderson, Joel Pereira and Kieran O’Hara, who have all been loaned out to Sheffield United, Hearts of Midlothian and Burton Albion respectively.

De Gea will be the go-to guy to start the majority of matches, namely in the Premier League. As for the Carabao Cup, the UEFA Europa League and the Emirates FA Cup, it could well be Romero who features, as he did in the cup competitions last season, other than the UEFA Champions League, of course. Grant could be a shoo-in for matches in these competitions too.

It was hoped that Henderson could have been afforded time in the Premier League this season but with De Gea’s contract being extended by the extra year agreed to in 2015, it was unlikely that he would be the first option in the goalkeeping ranks, however, he will get that Premier League experience he craved for, which might do him some good.

Fullback depth; Solskjaer’s options are much improved this season.

Last season, United’s defence left a lot to be desired. First of all, in the fullback position, Jose Mourinho, who started the season as manager, then Solskjaer had Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Matteo Darmian, Luke Shaw, and Diogo Dalot to choose from in both the left-back and right-back positions. Not a lot of pace, or youth for that matter.

Valencia was on the sidelines for much of the season, leaving the other four to contend for places in the squad. Young was often criticised, as way Shaw. Dalot was too inexperienced, but gave his all and Darmian seldom played. This season though, after the departure of Valencia, Wan-Bissaka arrived and has improved the position greatly.

Both Wan-Bissaka and Shaw will face competition from Young and Dalot, who can both play on the left or the right. Darmian may still play a part despite his future up in the air, although his current contract will expire at the end of the season. The fullback role is looking good for the current season with youth coming through the ranks to add more competition.

Central defensive depth; the strongest defence in six years?

Solskjaer has Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Axel Tuanzebe in his ranks for the current season. There was the rumour of Rojo likely to depart before the closure of the European transfer window at the start of September, but it is just rumour right now. With seven players, there is some depth in this area.

Bailly is injured until the Christmas period, meaning Solskjaer has six players contesting two positions in the squad. Lindelof and Maguire secured the central defensive area in the 4-0 victory over Chelsea at Old Trafford last weekend and will be expected to resume their positions against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday evening.

In case of injury to either Lindelof or Maguire, or the need for rotation, Tuanzebe will be a great option for Solskjaer as he did well during pre-season and learned some valuable things on loan with Aston Villa last season. The likes of Jones and Smalling could also be considered. Rojo not so much, based on pre-season appearances.

The depth of this squad is pretty good, despite the moaning for central midfield signings during the summer transfer window. Solskjaer will have had targets and if it was not possible to sign them, panic buying was just going to create more problems in the future with many players on high wages and unable to be moved on; Alexis Sanchez for instance.

United have many options in different areas; a minimum of three players, counting those already in the first team this season, which are players who have already made their debuts for the club in the recent years. In some positions, United has four sometimes five options, based on my opinion on where they would be able to play in the 4-2-3-1 formation.

This is the formation which Solskjaer has used more often than not, and a formation which will get the best out of the attacking players, using their hunger, determination and more importantly, their pace to launch attacking and counter-attacking plays during matches. Solskjaer’s identity seems to be young, courage and success.

Above, you can see the 4-2-3-1 formation, keeping an eye on the defence where there is a minimum of three players for each position, listed in order of importance to the squad. At fullback, both Wan-Bissaka and Shaw seem to be safe, although the emergence of Dalot could change that, more for Shaw, if he does not improve as he should have.

In the centre of defence, Lindelof and Maguire are certain to start more matches together, fitness and injury aside, but in that instance, there is some depth which could help get United through a difficult time. Tuanzebe, at least for me, is trusted more than the likes of Jones and Smalling; Bailly is at the bottom because of injury at the present time.

If the Ivorian improves his game, he could add more competition for either centre-back, which in turn will inspire players to perform to the best of their ability in order to keep their place. Competition is the best thing to bring the best out of players. This defence could achieve a lot; first of all to ensure they concede fewer than 54 goals this season.

copyright: JW