Jones takes another step forward in his recovery
Phil Jones was named in a senior matchday squad for Manchester United for the first time in 19 months on Wednesday evening and, although he didn’t feature, the defender can count it as another step forward.
Our no.4 has not made a competitive appearance since scoring in the Emirates FA Cup win over Tranmere Rovers back in January 2020, because of a persistent knee injury that has troubled him throughout his career.
His efforts to combat the problem have been courageous and he’s previously played through the pain barrier, often with a swelling to make the eyes water, all because he loves to represent United.
In the end, during lockdown, a decision was taken for Jones to undergo surgery that would hopefully fix the issue once and for all. It was at this time when the defender reached his lowest point, as he bravely revealed at the weekend in our preview clip from his upcoming UTD Podcast – which will be out in early October.
“I think as a footballer, as a person, as a human being, that’s the lowest I probably ever felt in my life,” Phil emotionally admitted to us at Carrington.
“You try and get a balance between football and family life but it was so difficult going home and trying to look after the kids. You’re there, but you’re not there, you’re not present. It’s nice to get that balance back.”
The light at the end of the tunnel has been there for Phil in recent months, while he has been training hard with the first team and building his match fitness with the club’s Under-23s.
Then, on Wednesday evening, there was a step forward on the comeback trail: Jones returned to the senior squad for our Carabao Cup tie against West Ham.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rightly said Phil “deserved” the inclusion and it must have been an emotional occasion for the England international.
From stepping off the bus outside the stadium in front of a roaring crowd, to emerging from the tunnel for the warm-up to an ovation, these are moments he has craved and they will have undoubtedly boosted his determination.
Jones was almost thrown straight into the action as well, early in the first half, when an apparent injury to Eric Bailly sent Phil up the touchline for a swift warm-up. He wasn’t needed in the end because his Ivorian team-mate played on, but can you imagine the adrenaline rush he must have felt at that moment?
Having been through so much in the last 19 months, both physically and mentally, Wednesday’s return to the squad was a key milestone for Jones and a much-needed boost of confidence. Small steps like these lead to giant leaps.
Social media has sometimes been cruel to Phil in recent years and unfairly so: this is a man who has consistently put his body on the line for Manchester United, a club he loves, playing through indescribable pain and doing everything he can to return.
A player who has made 224 United appearances, won the Premier League title and played at two World Cups deserves everybody’s respect and admiration.
Whenever Jones does return to competitive action, I will stand and applaud.