When Jose Mourinho took over as Manchester United manager in May, it was the chance for everyone at the club to start afresh and forget the last three underwhelming seasons.
For Phil Jones, it looked like this was the perfect opportunity for him to finally establish himself as the first choice centre-back and fulfil his potential.
— Phil Jones (@PhilJones4) May 21, 2016
According to The Guardian, at the start of the campaign Mourinho informed both Jones and Chris Smalling that they were his preferred defensive partnership.
Eric Bailly, a £30 million summer signing from Villarreal, was expected to provide cover for the pair.
Instead, this season has followed a familiar pattern for Jones. Injuries and fitness concerns have resulted in the former Blackburn Rovers man to yet be included in Mourinho’s 18-man squad in the league, whilst Bailly’s impressive form has seen the Ivorian become the manager’s first-choice centre-back.
The England international recently picked up a knee ailment; his 13th injury since joining the club in 2011, which will keep him out of action for another month.
Jones’ first couple of seasons at United saw him endear himself to the Old Trafford faithful with a series of impressive performances.
Robust tackles, a physical presence and intelligent use of the ball made the 24-year-old’s £16.5 million transfer fee seem like a bargain.
Phil Jones with another injury setback, has to wear a knee brace…at what point do United say enough is enough? https://t.co/AKG6KZRIGb
— The Peoples Person (@PeoplesPerson_) September 27, 2016
It didn’t take long for Jones to be compared to United legend Duncan Edwards whilst Sir Alex Ferguson went one step further by stating that “he could be our best-ever player.”
Yet, by August of this year, the defender was linked with a transfer to Stoke City – a move that didn’t attract much coverage.
Despite Mourinho’s refusal to sanction a deal, it’s clear that Bailly, Smalling and Daley Blind are all ahead of Jones in the pecking order.
It might be time for Jones to start to think about a move away from the club, even if it is a step down in his career.
At 24, he still has time to develop into the great player Ferguson thought he’d become, however, it may have to be away from Old Trafford.