It’s 2022 and Phil Jones is still a Manchester United player. But this is the year the former England international will finally move on.
Jones’ contract expires in June and United will not pick up the option to extend the deal by a further year.
The defender actually has been fit since the summer, after missing all of last season through injury. He is just so far down the pecking order that he won’t get an opportunity, and was not even named in the club’s Champions League squad.
Jones now needs to play, to get his career back on track. He has played the odd game for the under-23s but this is not enough.
He will be a free agent in the summer and he wants to remind people that on his day, he can be a good defender and not a walking meme.
So what lies ahead for Jones?
There was speculation late last month Jones could be in line for a shock move for Benfica, via The Mail, but there has been no progress with this and it seems unlikely.
The Sun reported last month that Newcastle and Watford were among the clubs keen, but whether Jones wants a relegation battle, amid his own struggles with confidence, is another matter.
Another move which might appeal is linking up with former United teammate Wayne Rooney at Derby County, who is managing a team against the odds after a 21 point deduction, and has them in with a real chance of avoiding relegation still.
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But there is one standout option. A more familiar move could appeal – and we are just speculating here – Jones should make a return to his former club Blackburn Rovers.
For the first time since Blackburn’s relegation back in 2012, the former Premier League champions are making a push to return to the top flight.
Blackburn sit in second position in the Championship, occupying one of the automatic promotion spots with four wins from their last five games.
This ‘return home’ for Jones could be exactly what he needs, to find a familiar setting with a set of fans who will appreciate and welcome him.
Getting the chance to be part of a memorable promotion winning campaign could be a dream scenario for Jones, whether he makes a permanent or loan move.
Even if it is just a case of providing cover for Blackburn centre-backs Daniel Ayala and Darragh Lenihan, Jones could be a useful addition to his former club.
It’s the type of move away from the spotlight which should appeal to him to try and get his career back on track, with his last game coming in January 2020.
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