Manchester United defender Luke Shaw launched a passionate appraisal of the “phenomenal” Phil Jones after he made his first appearance in almost two years during the 1-0 defeat to Wolves on Monday.
Jones last started a top-flight game against Burnley in January 2020 but injuries to Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly, along with COVID-19 complications for Victor Lindelof, left United short in defence.
The 712 days between Premier League games for Jones is the longest gap any player who has not left the club – including loan spells – has had between appearances for the Red Devils in the competition.
The former Blackburn Rovers defender, who missed the entire 2020-21 season through injury, had been an unused substitute in five league games this campaign, but was in from the start against Wolves alongside Raphael Varane.
United were insipid in their first defeat under Ralf Rangnick, but Jones can at least hold his head high after a solid display.
His 90 per cent passing accuracy was higher than any other starter on the pitch, while he also had the best duels success rate among United players (87.5 per cent).
His tally of three tackles was not bettered by any of his team-mates and he made two more blocks than any player from either side (three).
Jones has been ridiculed at points during his time on the sidelines, with many questioning why he has not moved on, but Shaw says it is about time his team-mate was given some respect.
“Phil Jones can be proud of himself,” the England international told Sky Sports.
“He’s been ridiculed for a number of years, constantly. People are always getting at him and he’s stuck by it. He’s so professional and has tried so hard and he got his reward tonight.
“He was out for a year and this was his first big game back. He was exceptional. Obviously I’m very happy for him after what he’s been through. He’s a good lad and he deserves it.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 3, 2022
Joao Moutinho’s late winner at Old Trafford meant United have lost their opening league match in two of the last three calendar years – before that, they had only been defeated twice in 23 matches at the start of a year.
It was the visitors’ first away league win against United since February 1980, ending a run of 10 visits to Old Trafford without a victory (D3 L7).
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