12 months on from 'light at the end of the tunnel', Phil Jones is back at square one

Manchester United announced the club’s Premier League squad list last week and Phil Jones was not listed.

This did not come as a surprise considering Jones missed the entire pre-season and has not been seen training since.

He is not in the Europa League squad either, meaning his only chance of game time will come in the Carabao Cup in November, if passed fit and selected – which seems questionable.

Jones’ predicament is depressingly familiar, 12 months after he believed his Manchester United fitness battle was on the verge of finally turning around.

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Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Jones said he saw ‘light at the end of the tunnel’

Jones appears to be losing his latest battle with fitness, which will be incredibly frustrating for him based on where he was a year ago.

In September 2021, Jones made his comeback for United at under-23 level as an overage player, making his first appearance at any level since January 2020, before the lockdown.

Speaking to United’s club website, Jones was optimistic. He said: “Thankfully, I see the light at the end of the tunnel now, and I’ve been back training, played a few behind-closed-doors games and I’m feeling really good at the minute.”

Jones’ optimism was eventually shown to be well-placed. He made his Manchester United first team return in January at Old Trafford against Wolves.

Speaking in March, Jones told the club website: “I turned 30 the other week and still feel young and fresh. I feel I’ve a lot more to give still, as long as I feel great, I can continue for as long as I can.”

He ended up making five appearances under Ralf Rangnick, but now as the 2022/23 season begins, Jones is simply back at square one.

The defender was actually pictured at Carrington at the end of June as Manchester United players returned for pre-season training. But that’s as far as his involvement has gone.

If this is how Jones’ spell at United ends, he will at least be pleased he made a comeback last season. He would have of course hoped that finally having recovered to fitness, he would be able to make it last.

United fans would no doubt prefer that the club move him on, via a loan, sale, or even just release him. His contract is up at the end of the season, and with his fitness struggles ongoing, and the club deciding not to register him, it’s very possible he has played his last game for the club.

This time last year Jones could see the light at the end of the tunnel at Manchester United. 12 months on, his focus should now be on looking for a new club.

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