Jones: Why I wanted to return to United early
After returning from England duty at the World Cup, Phil Jones was champing at the bit to get back to Manchester United.
Like some of his team-mates, the defender was so determined to ensure he can contribute to the cause for the Reds that he cut his holiday short to link up with the squad again at the Aon Training Complex.
However, such is his modesty and selflessness, our no.4 admitted he wasn’t sure why such a fuss was made of his eagerness to make an early start to his preparations for 2018/19.
“Somebody asked me about it the other day and I don’t think it was as big a deal as the media and the public were making out,” Phil said.
“I wanted to come back. I had a couple of weeks off and I felt ready to go again. It wasn’t a big deal for me and the other lads that did it as well.”
‘GOING TO THE WORLD CUP IS A PROUD ACHIEVEMENT FOR ME’
Jones played twice for Gareth Southgate’s side in Russia, with both of his appearances coming against Belgium – featuring his United team-mates Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini – in the group stage and third-place play-off.
Although the centre-back admits he would have liked to have starred more during England’s journey to the semi-finals, he was proud to be selected for his second World Cup finals – after also travelling to Brazil in 2014.
“It was another experience for me,” Jones reflected. “I’d been to one [World Cup] previously and, although maybe I didn’t play as many minutes as I would have liked, that’s football at times – it’s competitive. It was great to be a part of it and I managed to play two games out there. I played one game previously [in 2014] so that’s three games.
“Okay, I would have liked to have played more minutes but, at the end of the day, when you are younger, if someone says you’re going to play in the World Cup and represent your country, it’s incredible, so it’s an achievement for myself and I’m proud of that.”
‘I HAVE SOME FANTASTIC MEMORIES AT UNITED’
Jones made his only appearance of pre-season for United as a second-half substitute in our final friendly against Bayern Munich and wasn’t involved in the Reds’ season-opening win over Leicester City.
The former Blackburn Rovers man, who arrived at Old Trafford in 2011, is embarking on his eighth season at United at the age of 26 and has loved every minute of his time at the club so far.
“It’s gone so quickly! I remember my first game, I remember winning the Premier League and winning the Europa League,” he recalled.
“I have some fantastic memories, albeit I wish we had made more – in certain seasons, we could have done that. But I’ve really enjoyed it, I’m still enjoying it, I love the club and the people here. It’s a fantastic club to work for with a fantastic manager and coaches. It’s really enjoyable.”
‘LET’S SEE WHERE THIS SEASON TAKES US’
After beating Leicester 2-1 at Old Trafford last Friday night, the Reds will be looking to continue our winning start to the new campaign against Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Sunday.
Jones has one Premier League winners’ medal from his second season at the club in 2012/13, when the Reds claimed a record 20th title.
Although he accepts the challenge is always a difficult one, Jones and his team-mates are determined to get their hands on the trophy again.
“Yes, of course [we want to win the Premier League]. It’s the most difficult to win out of the competitions in England. The level of the players and their fitness and ability is improving,” Jones explained.
“I remember when I joined [United] in 2011; the Premier League has come on leaps and bounds since then – the pace of the Premier League and the games we’re playing in are so quick nowadays.
“You have to adjust and adapt to that, but it’s great to be a part of. The top six look very good and are going to be very competitive, so it’s going to be tough for us again this season – we know that – but I think we just need to focus on us a bit more and concentrate on how we’re going to approach games and let’s see where it takes us.”