As José Mourinho runs the rule over the Manchester United squad he has inherited this summer, many players will be sweating over their future at Old Trafford.
Memphis Depay, Marcos Rojo and Adnan Januzaj could all be worried about a possible exit from the club. However, it is Phil Jones who should be the most fearful as a career that promised so much at Manchester United, could well be over.
It is hard to believe that Jones has been a Manchester United player for five seasons, yet injuries, loss of form, lack of consistency when selected and a failure to progress on the talent he showed as a young 18-year-old at Blackburn Rovers have all cast a cloud over his future with the Red Devils.
Upon winning the Premier League title in 2013, manager Sir Alex Ferguson was quoted as saying of Phil Jones: “Arguably, the way he is looking, he could be our best ever player.”
Three seasons on since the Scot departed, this statement seems laughable. At 24 years of age, Jones should be making a claim for a regular first team spot. He should look no further than team mate Chris Smalling, who has improved greatly when he – just like Jones – looked to be on his way out, having failed to hold down a regular starting berth and reach a consistent level of performances.
Jones was not selected by England manager Roy Hodgson this summer. Whether fit or not, it was believed he was never going to France.
The fact that Hodgson decided to go with only three central defenders and opted against the versatility of Jones should be a major wake up call for the player himself, who – by the time the World Cup in Russia 2018 comes around – should be aiming to be a first-team regular for his country whilst being at the peak of his career. Just as Sir Alex believed he would.
Newly promoted Hull City are interested in making a surprise move for Manchester United defender Phil Jones. [Express] #MUFC
— Man United News (@MUFCRelated_) June 24, 2016
Injuries have blighted his playing time and it was he who was preferred to Chris Smalling to partner Daley Blind on pre-season last summer. However, a blood clot in his calf ruled him out until October and a series of other injuries have restricted his playing time since – playing time also hindered by the excellent defensive record of Smalling and Blind under Louis Van Gaal last season.
There always comes a time when a club has to decide if a player still has plenty to offer or if they would be better off replacing him. Central defender Eric Bailly has already arrived at the club this summer meaning Jones has to prove to Mourinho that he can be his next John Terry, a commanding leader at the back that was the backbone to Mourinho’s success at Stamford Bridge.
José Mourinho has faith in Phil Jones, despite his injury woes. He believes he can be like how Terry was for him at Chelsea. [@DiscoMirror]
— Utd HQ (@UtdHQ) June 18, 2016
Bailly joins Smalling, Blind, Rojo and Jones as players that can play centre back for the club. However, with United not yet finished in the transfer market, it appears at least one of the above will be on their way out of the club.
Reports that Hull City want to sign Jones should be of worry to the defender. No disrespect to Hull City, but once you leave a club of the stature of Manchester United your career is often only going one way.
Given his age, Jones still has plenty to offer at the highest level. He needs to cement down one single position, put his injuries behind him and become the player that Sir Alex always believed he could be. Jones’ problem, for the immediate future, is convincing Mourinho to think likewise.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena