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08-Mar-2020, 02:26 am

‘Unfortunate Jones deserved big billing at Man Utd’ – Injuries have stunted progress, says Samba

Phil Jones Manchester United 2019-20

Phil Jones deserved to be given a big billing when joining Manchester United, says former team-mate Chris Samba, with the potential he displayed as a youngster having been stunted by "unfortunate" injuries.

When the England international was acquired by the Red Devils in 2011, Sir Alex Ferguson suggested that he could go on to become the club's greatest ever player.

Sir Bobby Charlton also likened Jones to Duncan Edwards, with big things expected of a versatile operator at Old Trafford.

Over 220 appearances have been taken in over the course of nine years, with Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League success enjoyed, but Jones has never truly convinced.

He now finds himself down the defensive pecking order under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with ex-Blackburn colleague Samba feeling for a man who could have become a legend.

"Definitely. The names that he was put with in the same bracket was justified," Samba told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"He looked like he had that ceiling. It's just that injuries have been against him. It's unfortunate, but that's what football is. Injuries change everything."

Jones burst onto the scene at Ewood Park as a teenager and earned a switch to Manchester after just one full season as a senior star.

Samba admits he was initially sceptical when it came to the hard-working defender, but was soon won over and a big-money transfer came as no surprise when it materialised.

The former Rovers centre-half added: "Phil Jones was in the reserves and on his way to come with us. Sometimes he was training with us and I was like 'nah, I don't think so'.

"More time passed by and the more he trained with us it was like 'wow, he's changed so fast'. He went from being somebody you're not sure about to being 'wow, that's some player'.

"I remember there was a game when two of the central defenders were injured and Sam [Allardyce] asked if I was okay playing with Phil. I was like 'sure, let him play'.

"From the first minute he smashed [Didier] Drogba, challenges and everything and had the fans behind him. He was unbelievable.

"I have never seen progression like that in the space of two years. He was a different player."

Jones has been restricted to just eight appearances for United this season, with only two of those coming in the Premier League, and appears to have little chance of forcing his way into Gareth Southgate's England squad for Euro 2020.

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