Since his arrival at Manchester United, Phil Jones has been plagued by injuries. Up until the international break, the former Blackburn Rovers defender had started all 11 Premier League games for United – a welcome change in fortune for the England international. However, when the 25 year old collapsed to the ground whilst playing for his country, United fans feared the worst. Few were surprised when it was revealed that Jones would miss the game versus Newcastle, but what did bewilder those invested was the circumstances surrounding his injury.
Jones is currently one of the longest serving players at Old Trafford. He was bought by Sir Alex Ferguson, who had high hopes for the youngster from the moment he laid eyes on him.
“Jones, arguably the way he is looking, could be our best ever player. I think Jones may be one of the best players we have ever had, no matter where we play him. At 21 years of age, he is going to be a phenomenal player. I think he can play anywhere on the pitch.” – Sir Alex Ferguson (2014)
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With the world at his feet, it was expected that Jones would become a mainstay in the heart of the United defence. However, a horrendous time with various injuries completely derailed the development of one of England’s brightest stars. In 6 years at the club, he has made 133 Premier League appearances. Considering he arrived during the era of the Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, this may seem fair. But when comparisons are made between Jones and his peers, satisfaction fades to concern.
In the same 6 year period, club vice-captain Antonio Valencia has made almost 40 league appearances more than Jones – over a full league campaign’s worth. If this wasn’t enough, Juan Mata, since signing in 2014 has appeared 120 times in the league – only 13 less outings in half the span. According to transfermarkt.com, Jones has missed a remarkable 106 matches since his move to the Manchester club.Embed from Getty Images
Fast forward to November 2017, Jones has already played more minutes in 3 months than he managed in the whole of the 2015/16 campaign. In that time, the Red Devils have kept 8 clean sheets, conceding only 6 goals – the fewest in the league.
After Jones’ impressive start, he was called up to his national side, for their friendlies against Germany and Brazil. He started in Gareth Southgate’s back three versus Germany, before being removed due to injury after 25 minutes. Few would’ve expected the news that broke upon the defender’s return to his club.
During Jose Mourinho’s pre-match press conference for his upcoming battle with Rafa Benitez, he revealed that Jones had received 6 local anaesthetic injections whilst away with England. Such emergency measures have been used in the past, so a team is not without key players in big moments – cup finals, title deciding league fixtures. However, this sort of treatment plan is almost unheard of within the confides of a friendly.
“I am not an angel and I had players injected to play official matches, crucial matches, but a friendly… to get six local anaesthetic injections to play a friendly, I’ve never heard of that. Phil Jones had it, and had it before the match, and after 15 minutes he was out and tomorrow he is out.” – Jose Mourinho pre-match presser vs. Newcastle United
After his teams 4-1 victory, Mourinho was asked whether he would discuss the issue with England manager, Gareth Southgate.
“No. I think it’s a conversation between doctors because I’m not a doctor. I just get information from my doctor, and the information from my doctor was that they consult him in relation to Phil Jones with a little problem in the knee when the national team starts working. But then no more contact. The local injections before the match, we were not informed.”
With huge games against Manchester City and Arsenal on the horizon, Jose would be correct to question the thought process of the persons involved. Who is to blame? Did Phil Jones request the anaesthetic to show commitment to his national side? Did England’s medical team recommend the injections? Did Jones feel pressured by Southgate’s demand for fidelity?Embed from Getty Images
Mourinho’s point, about the discussions that should have transpired between the teams of medical professionals, rings true. Regardless of the feelings of player or manager, the England medical staff are obliged to overlook any implications on the pitch, for the well being of the player off it. The negligence shown by administering local anaesthetic to the player not only effects his club team in the present, but the players health in future. The ailments that former players suffer during retirement are often attributed to injections they received during their playing career.
“I did it for the cup final ’94, I took 3 [for the first leg] and then I took another 3 for the replay. In a week but not in one sitting, that was bad enough. That’s why I’m walking around now with a fused ankle.” – Ian Wright whilst discussing Phil Jones’ situation
Disagreement between club and national sides is not uncommon. Mourinho has a history of outing international as well as club managers in his pressers, but this time in particular felt different. Mourinho’s gripes are often ascribed to mind games, but in this case, the lack of communication between the medical groups has brought a level of support for the United boss.
Controversy aside, Jones is set for another period on the sidelines. With the festive schedule fast approaching, Jose will be hopeful the defender can return to fitness before long. Although Manchester United are not short of options in central defence, the start Jones had made brought a confidence to his team mates and supporters. Fans were beginning to see why Sir Alex rated him so highly, but will now have to sit in hope that another injury for the centre half doesn’t curtail his impressive performances.