Phil Jones last appeared in the Champions League for Manchester United almost three years ago but now the Red Devils defender is in line for another shot in Europe’s premier competition
Phil Jones has been recalled to Manchester United ‘s Champions League squad, nearly three years after his last appearance in the competition.
The 29-year-old has been included in the Red Devils’ 25-man roster for the knockout stages, having not played Champions League football since they were thrashed 3-0 by Barcelona in April 2019.
Jones spent the first half the season recovering from an injury which kept him sidelined for two whole years, and was therefore omitted from United’s squad for the group phase.
But now that Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek and Amad Diallo have left on loan, the defender – along with fourth-choice goalkeeper Lee Grant – has been called up by interim manager Ralf Rangnick, as his side face Atletico Madrid in the round-of-16.
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With the competition about to enter its business end, UEFA allow up to three changes per squad to accommodate squad reshuffles after the January transfer window.
Rangnick and co first face La Liga champions Atletico in the Spanish capital on Wednesday, February 23, before a return leg at Old Trafford on Tuesday, March 15.
In Jones’ case, his extensive time in the treatment room saw him often considered the forgotten man, even as far back as before the Covid-19 pandemic.
But the ex- Blackburn Rovers starlet is slowly regaining his mojo, having appeared for 120 minutes since returning with a start in the 1-0 loss at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday, January 3.
Jones even rejected a loan move to French outfit Bordeaux in January, despite centre-backs Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof all being ahead of him in the pecking order.
He was called on by Rangnick to play 30 uneventful minutes of extra-time in the FA Cup fourth-round tie against Middlesbrough last Friday, although did not take a penalty in the dramatic shoot-out which saw the Red Devils crash out.
Jones’ resilience throughout his injury-plagued career has seen him earn plaudits at Old Trafford, notably from teammate Luke Shaw after the aforementioned defeat to Wolves.
Speaking to Sky Sports , Shaw said: “He has been criticised for years and has gone through a lot, but he is so professional and he has trained hard and he was phenomenal.
“He was exceptional, I am very happy for him and he deserves it.”
Rangnick was also quick to praise Jones, who received a warm reception from fans in the Stretford End when he made his way down the tunnel.
“I think he did well, not having played for two years at this kind of level,” the temporary United boss said post-match.
“We didn’t see that [effects of the absence] in the game. He did his job and did exactly what I expected him to do.”