Jones last featured for Manchester United in a January 2020 FA Cup tie at Tranmere Rovers but is back in competitive action after 20 months as the Red Devils’ under-23s take on Arsenal
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- 12:44, 11 Sep 2021
- Updated13:32, 11 Sep 2021
Phil Jones has made his first competitive Manchester United start in 20 months as he continues his comeback from a lengthy injury lay-off.
The defender will feature for the Red Devils' under-23 side when they take on Arsenal in London alongside goalkeeper Dean Henderson, who endured a difficult summer which saw him have to leave the England camp during Euro 2020 due to injury and later contract Covid-19.
Last featuring in a FA Cup Fourth Round tie at Tranmere Rovers in January 2020, in which he scored a fine header, the 28-year-old's physical and metal resilience has been tested throughout a challenging period.
Having undergone his rehabilitation during the worst stages of the global pandemic, Jones teamed-up with United's squad for pre-season, where he trained but did not play.
Jones is back in competitive action for Man Utd's under-23s
He saw action in a behind closed doors friendly against Stoke City during the international break but is now back in competitive action.
The Manchester Evening News report that Jones could have waited until next week to face Brighton & Hove Albion in a home under-23s fixture but was keen to make a return as quickly as possible.
He instead requested to travel to the capital in order to take the next step in his recovery.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently gave an update on his progress and leapt to his defence when ex-Red Devils centre-back Rio Ferdinand, a former teammate of Jones', criticised the Blackburn Rovers academy graduate, saying he was taking up the position of a youth player by remaining at the club.
Jones last played a competitive fixture 20 months ago
"Phil has had a horrible 18-19 months and probably a year before that as well with injuries," he said. "I think Rio was a bit, not out of order, but a bit unlucky.
"He should have called me and asked why Phil hasn’t played or why Phil hasn’t been here. Phil is a no fuss, get on with it type of guy.
"I think that was out of order completely. I know more than anyone how it feels to be injured at that stage."
The Norwegian noted: "He’s still not 30 years of age. Since I came here he’s battled with this knee injury, he’s put his body on the line, every single training session, every single game. There’s a few times we’ve had to manage him.
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"He’s never given anything but given everything for the club. Rio should know more than to go out and say this."
Solskjaer seemed to have particular sentiment for Jones thanks to his off-the-pitch personality, being a 'no fuss, proper professional.'
"I’ve wanted to say a lot but I’ve not said a lot about Phil’s injury because I’ve wanted to protect him," the United manager stated.
"Phil’s never on social media, never asked to do interviews, he just gets his head down, proper, proper professional, no fuss, family man. He just wants to get back fit.
Solskjaer suffered a length absence in the mid 2000s and ultimately retired early due to knee issues.
Having often referenced his own struggles when discussing the defender's recovery, the 48-year-old added: "Phil has battled valiantly, I’d say. I know how Phil has felt, you’re embarrassed at times coming in. But he has to look after his career and he’s now getting back to fitness.
"For me as a manager, to see there’s can be light at the end of the tunnel, it’s great because I’ve been through the same. I think Rio knows, I think he feels a little bit sorry about that one."
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