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SPORTS

Forgotten Man United star Sir Alex Ferguson predicted ‘could be the best ever’

SPORTS By Mirror | April 10th 2021
Manchester United's starting XI, before the start of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg football match between Manchester United and Bayern Munich at Old Trafford in Manchester on April 1, 2014. [AFP PHOTO /CHRISTOF STACHE]

It’s now close to 15 months since Phil Jones last pulled on a Manchester United shirt.

The former England international actually scored during the 6-0 demolition of Tranmere Rovers in January 2020.

That is now looking increasingly likely to be his final impact for the club, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer plots potential sales to fund his own transfer plans.

Even before his injury, Jones had slumped down the pecking order, with Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof all preferred.

Speaking earlier this year, Solskjaer hinted that he could still have a future at the club, saying: “He was brilliant when I came in so I wish him back into the squad as quick as I can.”

However, reports continue to link United with a move another centre-back meaning that even if he can get himself fit, his days at Old Trafford are surely numbered.

But that wasn’t always the way for the 29-year-old, who was touted as the next great Manchester United defender when he arrived from Blackburn Rovers in 2011.

Sir Alex Ferguson saw an heir apparent to Rio Ferdinand and after playing 17 times in the club’s last Premier League winning campaign, his old manager had no issue with praising the young star.

“Jones, arguably the way he is looking, could be our best ever player,” Ferguson said after wrapping up the title in 2013.

Manchester United vs Stoke City - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - January 15, 2018 Manchester United's Phil Jones in action with Stoke City's Mame Biram Diouf [REUTERS/Andrew Yates]

“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. He has such a massive influence, with his instinct and reading of the game.

"He has a drive about him."

And while Jones has forged a respectable United career – he has made over 200 appearances – it has been a case of missed opportunities.

In fact, earlier this year, the amount of games he has missed through injury (228) has surpassed the total number of games he has actually played (224).

In a damning indictment of his role since Fergie left, Jose Mourinho, who played him 57 times, couldn’t recall his name when asked name some English defenders he had worked with.

While, his stay at United should still be remembered, it has certainly failed to live up to the lofty expectations of the man that brought him to the Theatre of the Dreams almost a decade ago.

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