Philip Anthony Jones seems to have been around forever – and yet, he is only 27 years old. The first two things that come to mind when I hear his name are the many facial expressions he displays during games and also the fact that he has more Premier League medals than Steven Gerrard.
There were high expectations and more than a little excitement when he signed for the club in 2011. As a teenager, he had performed excellently for Blackburn Rovers and had impressed when we played against them that season. He was determined, strong and loved to tackle. His versatility was something that Sir Alex admired – it was something he liked in a lot of his players.
All the signs of a very good young player were there. His early performances were encouraging. He featured at centre back, right back and also as a defensive midfielder. He even had two assists in one game in September 2011 and was rewarded with a call up to the England Senior team the following month. He featured 29 times in the league that season and 41 in all competitions – his most appearances in one season to date.
The high volume of games possibly took its toll however, as the following season he missed 24 in total through back, knee and ankle injuries.
So why does it now feel like this once promising English defender may have run out of time at Man Utd? He should be in his prime and I imagine that that’s what the club thought when they gave him a new four-year contract last year. The contract brings him to 2023 but there was no stipulation inserted to grant him a testimonial. Testimonials – when Old Trafford is bursting at the seams in celebration of one of its heroes and where said heroes get a chance to show off their silky skills one last time… but then maybe that’s exactly why Phil decided against asking for one.
With his recent history and performances though, I would hope that one eye is firmly on securing a decent transfer fee for him.
In defence of the club this contract was signed when Ole was in temporary charge and they needed to secure their asset. Unfortunately for Phil, however, I don’t think he has progressed to the extent that we all hoped. No one will ever question the commitment, determination and passion he has for the club but all too often he has been caught wanting in a critical position. Injuries have played their part too. He practically missed the full 2015/2016 season through a number of ankle injuries and venous occlusion. Since then he has missed games through knee, toe and several hamstring injuries. When you list these out the words ‘injury prone’ come to mind.
The lack of an experienced centre back for Jones to play alongside has been to his detriment too. The same applies to Chris Smalling. Both of these players needed a leader beside them, someone to guide them through matches and allow them to learn their trade without it being at the cost of a goal. However, more often than not, all they had was each other and to that end it became more about getting the lines cleared as much as possible than being allowed to develop into the type of player we all crave.
Going into his ninth season we can’t even call Jones a squad player anymore as he struggles to get on the bench. When he did get a chance, like the Sheffield Utd game last November, his lack of movement and awareness, poor decision making and the obvious lack of game time was the cause of him being at fault for their opening goal. For his own sake he needs to move on and get playing football regularly again. He will never become the player we need by playing once every 10 games – and nobody benefits from a situation like that.
Whatever happens no one can take away that 2012/2013 Premier League medal from him – but from this perspective I say we call full time on this devil.