Steve Bruce, Jaap Stam, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. What do they all have in common? In their hey day they were all Premier League winning Manchester United centre backs. They were competitive players but they had an edge, a desire that ranked them as the best in their position, they were leaders who propelled their club to the title and beyond.
When Phil Jones arrived at Manchester United in June 2011 he looked to have a huge future ahead of him. He was comfortable on the ball, but he was also a threat going forwards. There was even talk amongst the club that he could be a future Manchester United captain; and yet four years down the line and the Englishman has failed to really cement himself in the starting line up. There have been a number of reasons for this, the most prominent one has been his injury record. And yes, Phil Jones does tend to sustain the odd injury, or 10.
After suffering with shin splints earlier in the season, Jones picked up a suspected knee injury against Burnley on Wednesday night, and left the pitch in distress at sustaining another niggle. According to reports on the official Manchester United Website the Englishman could be out of action for the clubs up and coming matches at Preston and Swansea and may be a doubt for the home tie against Sunderland.
There is no doubt that Phil Jones is passionate about playing for Manchester United, with a desire reminiscent of captain marvel, Bryan Robson. But in the past we have been critical of his tackling style, which has seen him sliding into a lot of challenges. He appears to have been working hard on his technique to avoid the type of injuries which have seen him sidelined so regularly for his club. But it feels like he’s lost his edge, the raw ability which made him stand out as a youngster.
It would be shame if Phil Jones doesn’t make it at Manchester United, but unfortunately top flight football is about taking your chances and staying fit. Ryan Giggs has achieved longevity at an elite level and the Welshman would be the first to admit he has been lucky, having sustained very few injuries. Jones’ technique may have had a part to play in previous injuries, but it’s evident from the latest that he has very little luck.
As Jones walked past me on his way off of the pitch on Wednesday night (head in hands), I felt genuinely sorry for him and can only wish him a speedy recovery. But will he ever reach his potential? I’m not so sure.