Saturday, November 27

The ballad of Phil Jones, decorated elite player and ridiculed laughingstock | United manchester

TThe straw that appears to have broken the camel’s back could hardly have been more innocuous. On the first Sunday of October 2017, Phil Jones tweeted a response to Simon Wood, a Masterchef-winning restaurateur who had used Twitter to signal the presence of the Manchester United defender at his facility that same night. “Fantastic food,” Phil wrote, in recognition of the recognition. “My wife and I will be back soon. Thanks.”

It was in keeping with the kind of mundane back and forth where Jones occasionally participated in a social media account that seemed to have been curated by the player himself rather than a team of internal social media strategists. Promotional tweets, presumably posted at the behest of their Adidas sponsors, were occasionally punctuated by birthday wishes and other messages of support for strangers and colleagues alike. It’s not the kind of content a man would expect to exercise his two million followers.

Jones’ message to the man who had overseen the preparation of his dinner, largely nondescript and uncomplicated like the rest of his Twitter post, was written a day after he helped United keep a clean sheet in the demolition. of the Crystal Palace in Old Trafford. Despite the player playing perfectly well in the game, his position was greeted, like almost all of his invariably well-intentioned attempts at any kind of compromise, by toxic abuse from United fans who deemed him unfit to wear the jersey. of the club. .

While Jones has likely sampled Wood Manchester’s dining experience in the intervening four years, the player hasn’t reached out to Twitter since. Even in February 2019, when he signed a new contract that could extend his stay at the club to a dozen years, he chose not to mention this milestone in his career, presumably all too aware of the avalanche of discomfort it would provoke. of “fans”. While still a concern, these days Jones’ Twitter account remains inactive and unaffected even by obedient winks at his boot sponsors. One suspects that their silence probably suits them.

Reportedly on a salary in the region of £ 100,000 per week and linked to the club until the summer of 2023, Jones was entitled to a clause in his new deal that guaranteed him one year of testimony after the decade of service it marked. in June. “Other than my mom and dad, who else would show up?” he said, when asked why he had rejected it. It was a brutal, self-destructive preemptive strike from a player who almost certainly knew that if he didn’t mock his refusal to accept the offer, his many detractors almost certainly would.

Phil Jones in preseason training with Manchester United
Phil Jones in preseason training with Manchester United. He is currently returning from injury and recently participated in a closed-door friendly. Photograph: Matthew Peters / Manchester United / Getty Images

Accurately described in The Guardian as “a genuine Rolls Royce player” during his first season as a United player, these days the type of car that comes to mind most easily at the mere mention of Jones’s name is the kind of collapsible thing you see. Driven through circus Big Tops by clowns.

Signed for £ 16m from Blackburn Rovers when he was 19 by Sir Alex Ferguson, on the day United sealed the 2012-13 title with a win against Aston Villa, his coach proclaimed he was going to be “a phenomenal player” . Fast forward six years and Jones is currently working to get back in shape in preparation for his role as the club’s fifth central defender. His current coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, recently insisted that the player is in his plans, even if a cynic might suggest that it is only because he is not in those of any other club manager.

Since signing his contract extension more than two years ago, Jones has played just 16 times for United. His most recent appearance came in an FA Cup game against Tranmere in January 2020. He has spent the past 13 months sidelined by the latest in a depressingly long catalog of injuries that have plagued a stint at the club where he he has sat almost as many games as the 224 in which he has played.

For some time now, Jones has appeared to be a player whose best days are behind him at an age when he should be at the peak of his career. Yet far from being a warning of irresponsibility and broken promise, his is the story of a dedicated, determined and decorated player who has done enough in 10 injury-plagued years to impress four different England coaches while winning the title. , the Europa League and FA Cup for one of the most historic clubs in the world. Despite this, he has become something of a laughingstock because, as a kind of bizarre Beckham, anything that could go wrong for him has tended to do exactly that.

With his unfortunate penchant for own goals and other dire nonsense, along with a face that has thrown a thousand memes on the back of being caught mid-race while his panicked owner disputes tackles with all the poise and grace of Bambi slipping unhappily for ice cream. Lake, this once-excellent player has lately been reduced to comedy punching status, even if his pride seems to remain intact.

This week it was reported that he refused to hand over his number 4 jersey to Raphaël Varane, whose recent arrival at Old Trafford has pushed the holder of the garment even further down the defensive pecking order. Jones, who is currently making his tentative return from injury, also participated in a closed-door practice game on weekdays, prompting his manager to praise his stamina and say he needs a series of games with the reserves and the underdogs. 23 years.

While he has done well in his time at United, Jones deserves a break and hopefully he can get his career back on track, even if it’s hard to imagine him in the first team anytime soon. Such opportunities are likely to be extremely limited for a man Ferguson once unknowingly claimed “could be our best player.”

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