Sunday 23 April 2017

Jones aims to be at the centre of it all

Manchester United's Phil Jones
Manchester United's Phil Jones

Phil Jones has suffered back, knee, ankle, hamstring and shin problems since joining Manchester United so it was no surprise that he was left cursing his luck when his injury jinx struck again this summer.

Shortly after touching down in Manchester following a two-and-a-half-week tour of the United States, Jones felt a tightness in one of his calves.

The 23-year-old had a scan on the area in question and when the results came back it was bad news. Jones had developed a blood clot in one of his calves. He had thrombosis.

"I thought: 'what the f***?!'" the United defender said.

"You can't control it. It was one of the most frustrating periods of my career, sitting at home not being able to do anything.

"I was in the gym every day and the lads were playing.

"I just wanted to be part of it and I wasn't part of it. You just have to forget about it and move on.

"I don't think anyone will ever realise how hard it is at times. But I don't want any sympathy. I am just happy to be back."

Jones has spent long periods of his United career in the treatment room.

After Louis van Gaal was appointed manager in the summer of 2014, the medical staff at the club told the Dutchman that Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans were about to embark on their most injury-free season since joining, but the former Blackburn player was absent for a quarter of the campaign.

In total he has missed 59 matches over the last five years due to a catalogue of injuries.

Now he wants a long run in the team to prove he can cut it as a top Premier League centre-back - as Smalling has done in his absence.

"A million per cent, that's what I need - a run of games," Jones said. "The more games you play, the more confident you get and I think Chris has been terrific this season and hopefully we can cement a partnership together."


Considering they joined the club five years ago, Smalling and Jones have played surprisingly little together.

Sunday's 0-0 draw against Manchester City was just the 12th time the two have started as a pair at the heart of a four-man defence.

Smalling hopes this will be the year he and Jones can prove they are up to the task of filling the gap left by Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

"We have been together from the England Under-21s and being around the same age, I think you do just click and get on," Smalling said.

"We both have confidence in ourselves. I knew that this time would come and I could get a good year to show what a good player I am and I think he has got the same confidence."

Smalling is the perfect example of a man whose confidence has improved after a long run in the team.

The 25-year-old's form has been key to the fact that United have the joint-best defensive record in the league as Smalling is the only United player to have started every game this season.

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