Manchester United fans are simply desperate for the 2021/22 season to end at this point.
One more game away to Crystal Palace awaits, and with how underwhelming their squad has been throughout the campaign, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them struggle against Patrick Vieira’s side.
Knowing Erik ten Hag is now ready and waiting to officially get to work, the Dutchman’s rebuild project starting in the summer is about the only thing powering fans through their worst Premier League season ever.
In a campaign full – and we mean full – of disappointment for United, though, there has been one or two things to smile about. Phil Jones’ return to United’s first-team under Ralf Rangnick wasn’t an expected highlight, but it’s certainly been one of the better memories of the season.
Jones has had nothing short of a horrendous time ravaged by injuries throughout the last several years, but returned to appear for United for the first time in over two years back in January against Wolves, putting in a commendable display.
It was a performance that served as a reminder to United fans that, actually, this guy is no joke. And compared to their current squad, Jones was a much more favourable option when fit. His passion for United shone through, as did his obvious capabilities when fit, and his mentality.
In a season where United have essentially lacked all of those things, being able to watch Jones provide them on the odd occasion has been an unexpected delight. But also really weird, considering the damaging rhetoric that has plagued him throughout the majority of his career so far.
While shouldering a reputation of being chronically injured, Jones has also had to deal with endless online ridicule about how he does defend when he’s played over the years. A passionate and endlessly committed character on the pitch, Jones’ style has always been old school, unfortunately earning him a reputation as the funny face puller when in action.
Over the years, media outlets have lapped up Jones’ frantic approach and look when playing, as he has often been caught pulling strange faces while trying to lunge for the ball or making a last-ditch challenge to stop a goal.
It’s been seven years since that peaked, when Jones pulled off a rather unique head tackle against Arsenal in 2015, which Twitter reminded us of this week.
Jurien Timber to Man Utd latest (Football Terrace)
Again, the narrative surrounding this incident is a frustrating one. In the clip, Jones shows his desire to not be beaten and concede a goal. After slipping while turning backwards to block Olivier Giroud’s path to goal, Jones slips, but still has enough momentum to crawl and hurl himself forward along the floor.
You know, kind of like when you trip up while walking in public but turn it into a little jog to act like nothing happened. That one.
As Jones styles out his trip, he is desperate not to let his error give Giroud a chance on goal. So much so that, while frantically crawling, he heads the ball against the Frenchman’s feet and out for a goal kick, essentially faceplanting the floor in the process.
It was a truly bewildering instance to watch unfold live, and has aged just as peculiarly. You can watch the incredibly unique – but effective – piece of defending here.
WATCH – Phil Jones’ last-ditch defensive header against Arsenal
As a confused wrestling commentator would say, it’s certainly unique offence – or defence, in this case.
One thing you can’t ridicule, though, is Jones’ commitment to keep United from conceding. Unfortunately, a Tyler Blackett own-goal would rule out his efforts with just eight minutes to play, earning Arsenal a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, but that wasn’t a reflection of Jones, no matter the media hounding he has received for the last-ditch challenge.
Truthfully, United would’ve likely fared a lot better this season if they had a group of players willing to put their body – and reputation – on the line to fight for results, much like Jones was willing to against Arsenal.