United would now be sensible to delay Jones exit to late January

It says more about his Manchester United teammates that Phil Jones was our best player against Wolves, following his two-year first team absence.

The 29-year-old was back at the heart of the United defence for the first time since scoring in a 6-0 FA Cup win against Tranmere Rovers, on 26 January 2020.

Since that clash at Prenton Park, the former England international has played just three Premier League 2 games for Neil Wood’s under-23 side.

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

But with Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly all unavailable, Jones came into the side alongside Raphael Varane.

It didn’t prove to be a winning return for Jones, as United succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against Wolves, our first under the stewardship of Ralf Rangnick.

But United’s number four should be proud of his performance and despite the criticism and injury struggles he has faced, no one can questions his desire every time he pulls on the United shirt.

That passion and putting his body on the line for the cause cannot be said about the majority of his teammates. Jones received praise for his performance from the likes of Luke Shaw and Rangnick.

Phil Jones unlikely to leave Manchester United in early January

Photo by Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images

Jones’ eye-catching performance will have no doubt caught the attention of some potential suitors.

The Sun reported last month that Newcastle and Watford were among the clubs keen, and there was speculation late last month Jones could be in line for a shock move for Benfica, via The Mail.

But with Teden Mengi heading to Birmingham on loan for the remainder of the campaign, United’s cover at the back has significantly reduced.

With Axel Tuanzebe expected to end his loan spell at Aston Villa and move to Italian giants Napoli for the remainder of the season, United have five senior centre back options, including Jones.

Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

But with Eric Bailly now departing for the African Cup of Nations and with question marks surrounding the fitness of club captain Maguire, Rangnick may want to retain Jones for cover after his return to the side.

Although Lindelof is expected to return to the side after testing positive for Covid-19, the virus will continue to disrupt clubs.

The Swede hasn’t played since coming off in the second half against Norwich with breathing difficulties last month.

Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

Varane has only recently recovered from his second muscle injury of the season. Jones will no doubt be craving further game time after making his return, but Rangnick will not want to leave himself light at the back.

With Jones’ contract expiring in June and United unlikely to take up the option of extending his deal by a further year, the former Blackburn Rovers man may have to wait until the summer to secure his next move.

On last night’s evidence, Phil Jones will be ready for Manchester United whenever he is called upon.

If a deal is done, it will be later in January, when Eric Bailly is close to a return from the AFCON, and United’s other fitness problems have eased.

Right now, Jones still could have a part to play.

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Passionate Football fan that completed a NCTJ-accredited Diploma in Multimedia Sports Journalism in 2016.