Opinion: Phil Jones must progress this season after surviving Jose Mourinho’s initial Old Trafford clear-out

Manchester United had an extremely successful summer transfer window after adding four new and high-quality players to their squad – all of whom already look like worthy additions.

Jose Mourinho announced that his summer business was over a couple of weeks ago after completing moves for Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba. His only disappointment, therefore, might have been the lack of departures at Old Trafford.

Time for Jones to kick on

Although some fans wouldn’t have been too upset to see him leave, Phil Jones is someone that does appear to be a part of Mourinho’s plans, with the Portuguese manager having blocked a move to Stoke City for the centre-back earlier this week.

Despite that, United’s early season form has suggested that Jones won’t be much more than a squad player this season. The centre-back hasn’t even been on the bench for any of the club’s four games thus far this season, with Marcos Rojo – who was expected to be sold before the close of the window – taking a spot amongst the substitutes instead of the Englishman for some of those games.

Jones, Blind and Rojo are in direct competition for places | Photo: Manchester United via Getty Images/ John Peters
Jones, Blind and Rojo are in direct competition for places | Photo: Manchester United via Getty Images/ John Peters

Jones, despite being in Mourinho’s squad for the season, then, could yet find himself as the fifth choice player in his position – behind Bailly, Chris Smalling, a makeshift Daley Blind and perhaps even Rojo. That doesn’t say much for a 24-year-old once touted as having the potential to be the club’s best ever player by legendary ex-boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

The former Blackburn Rovers man is fortunate that he wasn’t pushed even further behind in the pecking order too, after Jose Fonte’s move to the club failed to materialise. Fortunately for Jones, the Southampton man's absence from the Red Devils’ ranks should now give him a better chance of reclaiming a place in the side.

Now or never for Jones?

Jones will, or at least should, therefore, get some chances to impress his new boss this season. Mourinho has hinted that he will rotate his squad for cup competitions and with matches against Feyenoord and Zorya in the Europa League and Northampton in the EFL Cup coming up this month, the defender has an opportunity to impress.

Although he has been hindered by injuries in recent years – some of which have been because of his own ill-discipline – Jones hasn’t performed to his best for some time and really must hit top form as soon as possible now.

A continued set of mediocre displays could lead to a departure for the Englishman in the near future. Mourinho’s pursuit of Fonte this summer suggests that he is not fully satisfied with his options in that department yet, and Jones is perhaps in greatest danger of being moved on if he can’t prove his quality this season.

Bailly won’t be dispatched by Mourinho as his own signing, whilst Smalling and Blind have performed much better than Jones in recent seasons – and that should work in their favour. Blind also offers the kind of versatility which his boss should value, meaning Jones already has a difficult challenge in surpassing them in the centre-back pecking order.

He doesn’t need to be playing every week to properly cement his place in the squad, but it’s important that he can convince those watching that he is at least an important player for the club, as it’s been far too long since he’s been seriously held in that regard by supporters.