Phil Jones: How Man Utd defender overcame two years of injury hell and social media abuse

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When Phil Jones walked off the field after Manchester United’s defeat to Wolves on Monday night, he patted the badge on his chest while he fought back the tears as the supporters in the Stretford End chanted his name. 

He had just completed 90 minutes of Premier League football for the first time since January 2020 – something that in the darkest days of his recovery from injury he feared he wouldn’t be capable of doing ever again. 

Jones’ fitness issues first started before he signed for United, when he was still at Blackburn Rovers, and while he bravely battled on with the effects caused by the severe meniscus damage he suffered in his right knee in a game against West Ham in December 2010, it caught up with him after his move to Old Trafford. 

During his 11 years at United, he has been sidelined on 22 different occasions with various injuries.

However, he has not let that deter him.

During the first coronavirus-enforced lockdown, he would get up before his children to do extra running and gym work. Consequently, when he returned to training with the rest of the senior squad in 2020, he felt fitter and stronger than ever before. 

But then, injury struck again, and he required surgery which ruled him out for the entirety of last season.

Cruelly, his injury record, facial expressions and form have led to the centre-back becoming a figure of ridicule during his United career, so much so, in fact, that he deleted all of his social media accounts in 2017.

That may have spared him all of the abuse he received online, but it did not stop him becoming a scapegoat.

Phil Jones Manchester United  Premier League 2021-22 GFX

In August 2020, Twitter were forced to apologise to the player after United lodged an official complaint with the social networking service after it posted a picture of the 29-year-old which provoked a stream of abuse. 

It hasn’t just been faceless fans who have unfairly attacked Jones either. His former team-mate Rio Ferdinand called him a “waste of time” on YouTube back in August.

It is believed that Ferdinand’s attack prompted Jones to give a detailed interview on the struggles he has faced in getting back to full fitness. 

That dedication and determination to play again also triggered an impassioned defence of Jones by then-United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and it is understood Ferdinand has since been in touch to apologise for his comments. 

Sources say Jones has used the setbacks and criticism to drive him on and anyone that has worked with the centre-back will testify to his dedication and perseverance.

After 14 months of rehabilitation, he completed his first full session in August 2021 and was applauded onto the training pitch by his team-mates. 

It is understood that he is still regularly one of the first at the training ground, in order to do a longer warm-up in the hope that it will minimise his risk of him suffering a recurrence of his injury issues, while his hard work in the sessions has also been noted.

Furthermore, he is a popular figure around the club’s Carrington training base, with sources crediting Jones with “keeping morale up” during tough times such as these.