There was familiar news at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s press conference ahead of the Shefffield United fixture as the Manchester United boss confirmed Phil Jones is still dealing with an injury.
Solskjaer told the club website he hopes Jones ‘should be ready’ by January – although there is little chance of first team involvement for him
United are still counting the cost of a misjudged decision to hand Jones a new contract in 2019.
It would have been sensible to let him walk away on a free – but United are reluctant to do this where possible, especially when ‘in theory’ Jones at 28 now should be entering his peak years.
It smacked of the Old Trafford bean-counters making decisions based on a spreadsheet rather than using any real football judgement.
Jones has barely played; when he has he has been disappointing even by his standards, and since June he has been dealing with injuries.
Under contract until 2023
The deal Jones signed runs until 2023 – with a seemingly laughable option to extend to 2024. Except the money being paid to Jones should be no laughing matter for the club.
Often amid his ongoing injury problems there are calls for the club to simply be ruthless and terminate his contract. From a football perspective this would be little loss, but it would incur a big payment from United’s side.
Based on the two-and-a-half years remaining on Jones’ deal, it would cost £11.25 million to pay him off.
As tempting as it may be for fans to say ‘terminate his contract’ as he is contributing nothing on the pitch, financially United have dug a hole for themselves.
Reported interest in January
If Jones can stay fit, there appears to be a market for him in January.
A report from 90Min report there are eight teams interested in Jones, which includes Celtic, Newcastle United, Leicester, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Southampton, Sheffield United and West Ham are all keeping tabs on him.
While this may whittle down into just one or two teams actually making a move, that would be more than in the summer.
Jones deserves to get his career back on track and start showing why he was once rated as a top prospect. He can only do that if he stays fit.
Another fitness setback could be costly for Jones, and United. Any kind of fee received in January would be preferable to having him stay on the books.
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