Supporters were far from happy with Smalling’s shaky display during Man United’s 0-0 draw with Southampton on Wednesday.
And Jones, speaking after the game, admitted that he was itching to start ahead of his fellow countryman.
“We’ve got a fantastic squad and we’re all itching to play in the final,” he said. “It’s a final, you’d be lying if you said you didn’t want to play in a final but, as an individual, you can only do what you do best and do well for the team. Whoever plays in the final is good enough to go out there, do the business and win the game.”
“You’d be crazy to put it out of your thoughts completely. It’s a huge game for us, we’re excited about the final and we’ve won a cup already.
“People will look at the table and say we’ve not had a good season but, ultimately, would you rather finish second and win nothing or win two cups and be in the Champions League?”
Ever since Bailly’s dismissal, Mourinho has had to contemplate something of a lose-lose dichotomy: whether to start Jones or Smalling in a European final.
It has been something of a who-is-least-awful dynamic as opposed to a question of who deserves the chance to feature in the most important game of United’s season – almost like choosing who you’d rather have as your dentist out of someone with blades for hands and someone with a cactuses for hands.
There was little to separate the two against Tottenham Hotspur; against Southampton, however, Jones was notably firmer, making a number of important defensive headers.
He has, all things considered, had a better season than Smalling – far from United standard, mind, but Mourinho has his hands somewhat tied in this situation.