Phil Jones is 26 years old. He has been at Manchester United for seven seasons, and played nearly two hundred games for the club. And yet if you ask yourself “is he good enough?”, it’s very hard to come up with a firm, solid YES.
It’s not just the moments of clownishness, although they can sometimes be disastrous. It’s the broader failure to develop into a footballer that can be relied upon. Defenders should be predictable, competent, even a little boring. And Jones can do that for a few games. But ultimately, every run of decent performances ends the same way: far too much excitement, for all the wrong people. AT
We got the run of good form. We got the untimely yet inevitable injury layoff. And of course, we got the baffling lapse of concentration at the worst possible time resulting in some 659 million people (arf!) collectively shouting some version of “For f**k’s sake, Phil, what are you doing?!” This season was Phil Jone’s United career in a nutshell; the full Phil Jones Experience, if you will.
We’re now at a point where we can safely say that Jones cannot be relied upon to either stay fit for a whole season, nor - when fit - stay focused for a whole match. When fit and focused, he can be a good defender. But if Manchester United mean to challenge for trophies, they can’t expect to be fielding a senior central defender who comes with caveats. The only reason that Jones may still be around come next season is that there are a handful of even more useless defenders whose exits should be more of a priority. BM
There’s no disagreement in this corner of tBB. The decisive penalty Jones ceded to Chelsea in the FA Cup final just about sums up why he’ll never be an elite defender. Centre-backs can occasionally mask sketchy positional play with a knack for the last-ditch tackle, but as revealed when Jones tangled legs with Eden Hazard at Wembley, he’s not blessed with such precision.
Eden Hazard beats Jones to a loose ball and gets in behind before the United defender's last ditch challenge brings him down and then the Belgian steps up to convert the penalty. 1-0. #CFC pic.twitter.com/id5kTihQdQ— Chelsea GIFs (@ChelseaGIFs) May 19, 2018
As with Chris Smalling, we should not be pleasantly surprised when Jones achieves a level of baseline competence, and shouldn’t allow ourselves to settle for mediocrity. He’s just not good enough to start for United, and his versatility is the only asset that really warrants his retention. JS
Verdict: Keep (for now, but out of the first team)