Phil Jones’ appearance in Manchester United Under-21s game against Chelsea on Monday was expected to aid the defender’s rehabilitation from injury, but instead it could end up hurting his career.
The 24-year-old put in a performance that United fans later described as “awful” and “terrible” on social media, with many calling for the Red Devils to sell Jones.
And a video of Chelsea’s Kasey Palmer completely humiliating Jones - which you can check out below - shows Jones is still a long way off the pace.
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The former Blackburn Rovers man hasn’t made a first-team appearance since January 2 and Louis van Gaal won’t have been impressed with what he saw from the stands.
Manchester Evening News reporter Samuel Luckhurt assessed: “Phil Jones makes way. Looked shaky against a zippy Chelsea attack and was reliant on [RoShaun] Williams.”
Phil Jones is made to look silly
When a player who has appeared in a World Cup and European Championship is relying on a 17-year-old defender, you know something’s not right.
Jones hasn’t managed to live up to the expectation following his £16.5 million move from Blackburn in 2011, and could be shipped in the summer as a result.
United will surely sign a centre-back in the transfer window, while Daley Blind has transitioned into centre-half.
Jones stands little chance of disposing Chris Smalling following his breakout season and coaches are said to be impressed with youngsters Williams and Axel Tuanzebe.
Manchester United fans want Jones out
And yet, just three years ago, Sir Alex Ferguson said Jones will become one of United’s greatest ever players.
“Jones is going to be a phenomenal player,” Ferguson said, per the Daily Mail.
“He has a fantastic influence, no matter where he plays. “He has an instinct for the game and a drive about him.
“I have no idea where his best position is. He could play anywhere on the pitch. But he will be one of the best players we have ever had.”
Wretched injury record
Jones versatility makes him a useful player but only when fit. And, unfortunately, United just haven’t been able to rely on the defender.
According to Transfermarkt, Jones has suffered 13 separate injuries since the 2012-13 season. His latest has forced him to miss 12 games.
Despite England’s dearth of talented defenders, it would represent quite the shock if Roy Hodgson includes the Jones in his 23-man squad for the European Championship.
Hodgson has made full use of Jones’ versatility - deploying him as a holding midfielder, right-back and centre-half in qualifying - but England have better options in all three positions.
It could be quite a while before we see Jones back in United’s starting line-up.