Jones support shows fans' true colours
According to a report in The Athletic in 2019, Phil Jones claimed he would not seek a testimonial for his 10 years at Manchester United because “apart from my mum and dad, who else would turn up?”
It is such a self-deprecating comment and, whether said at least half in jest or not, Monday's reception for the returning defender showed any fears on that front were misplaced.
Phil or 'Jonah' is such a down-to-earth character, it would be no surprise to hear him say that. After all, some of the online abuse he faced was so bad he felt the need to delete his social media accounts, even if it was not representative of the general mood of the match-going support towards him.
A milestone that's been 712 days in the making.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 4, 2022
It meant so much to Phil ❤️#MUFC pic.twitter.com/Kd7H7fyedE
When we caught up with the 29-year-old for an in-depth UTD Podcast episode last year, his explanation for that decision was particularly soul destroying.
"I stepped away from social media a long time ago," he said. "But it's difficult because all your friends read it, your family read it and they support you. They want the best for you. They don't want to see their mate, their husband, their dad getting slaughtered all over the papers or all over the media.
"So it's tough because, mentally, I was going through a tough time and [then] to read stuff as well."
Instead, when Jones was going through the torturous process of fighting to recover from injury, in those days spent in the gym and away from the main squad as part of his rehabilitation at Carrington, you would have wished that he knew he had the backing of the supporters who pack Old Trafford out every home game.
We have seen resilience from other players in the past who encountered such difficulties in staging comebacks after long lay-offs and it is something to be applauded. Nobody would have been hurting more than Jones at being unable to help the team on the field and yet he faced criticism from all quarters as he endured almost a two-year absence from senior duties.
To recover and be able to produce a largely undisputed Man-of-the-Match display for the Reds this week was a testament to his professionalism and determination.
Highlights from Phil's return to action
Here are five short examples of how well Phil Jones played on his return, against Wolves...
Nonetheless, it did not stop one high-profile media outlet suggesting he was to blame for the defeat as his headed clearance was seized upon by Joao Moutinho, who drilled in the late winner for Wolves. Clearly, this was not an opinion shared by many on the night but, well, maybe it generates clicks and manages to gain attention in a crowded space.
No, the overriding sentiment was one of respect and support for somebody who has been through the mill but always gives absolutely everything when pulling on the red shirt. The cheers that greeted his first clearance were followed by genuine acclaim for his spirited efforts on a difficult night for Ralf Rangnick's side.
Despite witnessing a costly home defeat, the fans showed their appreciation for Jones as he left the field and his emotional response spoke volumes. As he patted the badge on his chest, it was a telling reminder of what being part of this great club is all about.
During any adversity, unflinching support is always going to be absolutely vital and, certainly, Phil deserves that after what he has been through.
A whole-hearted performer who, let's not forget, played for England at the last World Cup, he has been at United since 2011 and surely will have appreciated the heartfelt backing from those in attendance on Monday night.
I just sincerely hope it wasn't too much of a surprise to him because it was a sentiment that every true Reds fan will share.
The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.