Phil Jones turned down the chance to have a testimonial with Manchester United because of his “flagging popularity” with fans of the club.
Jones joined United from Blackburn Rovers in 2011 and has played over 200 times for the club. The defender made a strong start to life at Old Trafford. He instantly impressed and was likened to United legend Duncan Edwards.
However, in the post-Alex Ferguson years, Jones’ form has fallen off a cliff and he has, so far, failed to fulfil his potential as a player owing to a combination of injuries and errors in games.
The nadir of Jones’ United career came on Sunday when he was substituted at half-time against Sheffield United in the team’s 3-3 draw. He had made an error for the home side’s opening goal and it was the third time in five matches that he was hooked at half-time.
Jones signed a new four-year contract in 2019, a deal that entitles him to a testimonial in 2021 after a decade of service to United. However, according to Daniel Taylor, writing in The Athletic, the defender did not request a testimonial. He flatly ruling out the prospect of staging the game as he did not believe he was popular enough among fans of the club.
“When Jones signed a new four-year contract in February he was entitled to request a testimonial as part of the deal, as was the case with Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane and all the other players who have given the club a decade of their lives,” Taylor writes.
“Jones, however, was acutely aware of his flagging popularity and, when the option of asking for a testimonial was brought up, he decided against it.
“He also has a nice line in self-deprecating humour (which is probably for the best right now) and if anyone asks whether there will be a testimonial he tends to turn the joke on himself. ‘Apart from my mum and dad,’ he will say, ‘who else would turn up?'”
Taylor also writes that Jones is aware that he has become a figure of fun for some on social media.
“The people who are closest to him say he is only human and that of course it gets to him, particularly when he also has to think about the effect on his wife, Kaya, and his parents, Mark and Helen, and what his daughter, Alaria, will make of it when she is old enough to read.”
Jones has won the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Europa League with Man United. However, it appears that a move away from the club might be what is now needed to get his career back on track.
(Originally published on November 28, 2019).