It’s been a long time coming, but the end of Phil Jones’ Man United career can’t really have come as too much of a surprise to the player.
Despite being at the club for 12 years, Jones has barely featured over the past few seasons, with transfermarkt noting that he’s only made 64 appearances in all competitions in the past six years.
At 31 years of age and with no realistic possibility of getting into Erik ten Hag’s starting XIs, the time is right for the player to move on, even if there’s an acceptance that Jones has no idea what the future holds for him at this moment.
Talking with Man United’s club media in an interview detailed on the official Man United website, it was clear how emotional Jones was when discussing the curtain coming down on his Red Devils career.
“It’s been very difficult, the last couple of years. There’s no denying that. There is no hiding away from that,” he said.
“My family have been absolutely instrumental in keeping me on the straight and narrow and keeping me focused, to try to get fit and try to play more.
“And, you know, I’ve missed playing football. I missed it. You grow up playing football and all you want to do is play football. It’s all I’ve known, from such a young age, is to do what you love doing for a living. I’ve been fortunate enough to do that, albeit not as much as I would have liked.
“I’ve worked tirelessly hard. I literally left no stone unturned. I tried to get back as quick as I could, every time I was out in the last couple of years. I think the highlight for me would have to be the Wolves game [his return from injury last season], when I came back. That was just a moment that I’ll never forget. It gives me goosebumps now, thinking about it. I mean I worked so, so hard to get to that stage of fitness.
“That was a huge, huge moment in my career and the fans, that day, were incredible. The love that they showed me for that game, the passion that they showed, was sensational. And I can’t thank them enough for that. They’ve been a constant support throughout my time here.”
Much will be made of the faces he would pull during games which inevitably ended up as internet memes, though that rather unkindly mocks the fact that Jones was a serious club man who would always give of his best.
Injuries curtailed what should’ve been the best years of his footballing career, and they’re times he won’t be able to get back.
Though he can ultimately look back on his time at the club with pride, there will undoubtedly be many times when the ‘what if’ scenarios run through his head.
Perhaps one final move elsewhere will help soothe the pain he clearly feels at present, and ends his days as a professional footballer in the right way.