Phil Jones arguably played better vs Wolves than Harry Maguire has all season

When Ralf Rangnick named his Manchester United team to take on Wolves at Old Trafford on Monday night, the big news was the inclusion of Phil Jones.

Harry Maguire missed the game with a rib injury and with Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly also out, that handed Jones a chance to return to the first team.

Jones could have been forgiven for showing signs of rustiness or nerves but he didn’t, and performed as well as any United player on the night.

Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

As per WhoScored, he made three blocks on a night where nobody else in a red shirt made more than one and his passing accuracy of 90 per cent was the highest in the United side.

Jones was also the only one among United’s back four and two holding midfielders not to commit a foul, as Wolves’ forward players proved too much for his teammates to handle.

There were also three tackles – only Nemanja Matic made more – and two clearances, a tally only bettered by Raphael Varane.

He deserves immense credit for that performance after so long out and it was clear how much getting back out there meant to him. United released footage after the game of Jones in tears as he left the pitch.

Jones’ display does raise the question of whether the man he replaced, Maguire, has performed at the same level in a red shirt this season.

Photo by James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images

Has Maguire has put in a better performance this season than Jones did vs Wolves?

In October, Maguire admitted he has struggled to find his best form this season.

Perhaps he has suffered a hangover from Euro 2020 or is still battling the injury he rushed back from to be a part of Gareth Southgate’s side in the summer.

But looking back over his United performances this season, it is hard to find one which stands out. He played well against Tottenham, but that was in a three-man defence.

Too often this season, United have been too easy to play through and Maguire has struggled to impress.

By WhoScored’s rating system, Maguire’s best performance this term has come in the 1-0 away win over bottom club Norwich in December.

Just like against Wolves, the team performance was poor collectively, and the difference in the results can be explained by the basement club’s lack of quality and confidence and a masterclass from David de Gea.

Maguire made six clearances and won five headers that day, but did not make a tackle or an interception and just one block. His passing accuracy of 88.5 per cent was also lower than Jones’ against Wolves.

While the standard of that display should not be dismissed, the difference in the quality of the opponents also needs to be taken into account.

Wolves were described by Ralf Rangnick as the best team he has faced as United boss, while Norwich look bound for an instant return to the Championship.

Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Jones was not perfect against Wolves, but defended on the front foot where possible and carried the ball into midfield when the opportunity presented itself.

Taking into account his lack of football leading up to the game, it has to be considered a more impressive performance than Maguire has produced this season.

United legends Paul Scholes and Roy Keane have taken aim at Maguire this season and perhaps he can use the short time out of the team to come back with renewed focus on improving his performances.

Jones may hope to keep his place in the side for the FA Cup clash with Aston Villa, and if he can build on his strong display against Wolves, he will have put together a level of performance which has so far proved beyond Maguire this season.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.