Phil Jones has insisted that he never intended to leave Manchester United over the summer amid speculation surrounding a potential move away from Old Trafford.
The Englishman’s last appearance of the 2015/16 season came on January 2, and he didn’t receive another chance to impress until Man United’s 3-1 win over Swansea City earlier this month.
Such a prolonged absence precipitated rumours of an imminent exit, with Stoke City and Arsenal both expressing their interest in the defender.
However Jones, speaking after United’s 4-0 win over Feyenoord, made it clear that he never even considered a move away from the Theatre of Dreams, alongside expressing his delight at receiving a run of games in the first team under Jose Mourinho.
“The body is stiff: cuts, bruises – but it’s nice to be back, back playing again,” he said.
“The manager always gave me confidence. I felt good training and he’s given me the chances that I wanted and I’m thankful for that.
“The manager is honest. That’s all you can ask as a player, for a manager to be honest. He’s the manager, the players need to know when they’ve done right and when they’ve done wrong and he does that.
“I need to look after myself but I’m just delighted to be back playing and being in the dressing room with the lads. It’s a good feeling.”
And when asked whether interest from other Premier League clubs over the summer tempted him into a move away from Old Trafford, Jones replied emphatically: “No, definitely not.”
It was hard to envisage Jones occupying a regular place in the first team under Mourinho this season. The presence of Daley Blind, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling and the exciting prospect of Timothy Fosu-Mensah somewhat pushed Jones – a peripheral figure under Louis van Gaal as well – firmly into the darkness.
However, with Smalling and Bailly both injured, Jones has received a chance to impress, receiving three full games in a row. And, much to the surprise and delight of all United fans, the 24-year-old hasn’t disappointed, displaying signs of the Jones that used to marshall the back four under Sir Alex Ferguson.
United fans will hope to see Jones, even when Bailly and Smalling return, continue to offer his unique steel and resolve at the back this season.