He was once described as having the potential to outshine George Best, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney as Manchester United’s greatest ever player.
On Friday, however, the Premier League club confirmed that Phil Jones will leave when his contract expires at the end of the season after seeing his career wrecked by injuries.
The defender joined United from Blackburn Rovers in 2011 and was part of Alex Ferguson’s last league title-winning team. But he has only made five appearances in the past three seasons and never fulfilled the potential many believed he had.
“Arguably the way he is looking, (he) could be our best ever player,” Ferguson said in 2013. United’s former manager described Jones as “phenomenal” and capable of playing anywhere on the field.
His talent reminded some of United great Duncan Edwards, who died as a result of injuries sustained in a plane crash in Munich in 1958, which killed many of the club’s iconic team dubbed the “Busby Babes.”
Unfortunately for Jones, the lofty expectations placed on him have contributed to the ridicule he has faced as his career has faltered, with fans on social media mocking anything from his facial expressions to on-field errors, which have regularly been turned into internet memes.
Now 31, Jones is undecided about his future.
On Friday United published an open letter from Jones to the club’s fans.
“My time at United has been nothing short of incredible,” he wrote. “I wish I could have played more. I wish I could have given more to the many squads I played amongst. I will say, from the bottom of my heart, I did everything I could. I did everything the medical team asked of me.
“I never left a stone unturned in the pursuit of living my dream and having the opportunity to represent Manchester United on the pitch.”
Jones made 229 appearances for United and played 27 times for England.
He has suffered a catalogue of injuries during his time at United and has struggled to overcome a long-term knee problem.
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