Phil Jones issued an emotional statement on Friday as he confirmed the long-expected announcement that he would leave Manchester United in the summer after his contract expires.
The 31-year-old defender, who joined under Alex Ferguson from Blackburn Rovers in 2011 and is United’s longest-serving player, has managed only 13 appearances since the start of the 2019-20 season because of chronic knee trouble, with his limited appearances a constant source of comment from fans at Old Trafford and beyond.
Jones was entitled to have a testimonial after a decade at the club but, aware of the frustrations that have surrounded his continued presence while not actually being present at first-team training for a year, turned it down, reportedly joking: “Apart from my mum and dad, who else would turn up?”
“It’s been very difficult, the last couple of years,” Jones admitted in his farewell to United. “There’s no denying that. There is no hiding away from that. My family have been absolutely instrumental in keeping me on the straight and narrow and keeping me focused, to try to get fit and try to play more.
“I’ve missed playing football. I missed it. You grow up playing football and all you want to do is play football. It’s all I’ve known, from such a young age, is to do what you love doing for a living. I’ve been fortunate enough to do that, albeit not as much as I would have liked.
“My time at United has been nothing short of incredible. When I decided to leave Blackburn I was desperate to show everyone what I could do at the highest level. I had a hunger inside me, I was desperate to continue that at a club that could challenge for everything.
“I had offers from a few places, but I was waiting and waiting for the call from United. One day, on holiday, the phone rang and it was Sir Alex. I left my holiday that day; I couldn’t wait to meet him. I couldn’t wait to sign and, most of all, I couldn’t wait to get started. There was only one club where I wanted to continue my journey in the game.
“To wear this shirt, even just once, to wear this badge and represent everyone associated with it, has been an honour. 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.”
United’s announcement on the club website concluded: “Our No 4 is now taking some time before deciding his next move and everybody at United would like to wish Phil the very best of luck for the future.”