It’s rather incredible to think there was talk of Phil Jones leaving Manchester United for mid-tablers Stoke City during the summer.
Admittedly, the centre-back seemingly lost his way during the Louis van Gaal era at Old Trafford, managing just 32 Premier League appearances across two campaigns amid a raft of injury problems and consequentially losing his place within the England fold.
But the last few months, following injuries to Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly, have seen Jones unexpectedly establish himself as one of the first names on Jose Mourinho’s teamsheet, playing a pivotal role in United’s nine-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.
And although a penalty conceded by Paul Pogba prevented Jones from claiming a clean sheet in a particularly cagey North West derby yesterday afternoon, a look at the statistics from his performance vs. Liverpool really highlights how important he’s become in Mourinho’s United side.
As our infographic shows, Jones completed seven aerial duels, nine clearances and a staggering five blocks – all of which were the most of any United player – and also weighed in with two clearances and three interceptions. Overall, that’s a whopping 26 defensive actions from the 24-year-old, who also produced an 83% pass completion rate.
Indeed, the likes of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have grabbed the headlines when they arrived at Old Trafford during the summer, but keeping Jones may have been Mourinho’s best business of the transfer window. He’s been like a new signing for the Red Devils this season and appears to now be a major factor in his manager’s long-term plans.