A forgotten Man Utd star made his long-awaited return to competitive football this weekend, though a club move could hint an exit is on the horizon.
The signing of Raphael Varane has given Man Utd’s back-line a much-needed sprinkling of stardust. The Frenchman, 28, brings to Old Trafford a winning mentality having played an instrumental part if helping Real Madrid secure four Champions League titles in five years.
Varane and Harry Maguire now form what appears a formidable partnership on paper. With Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly in reserve, centre-back is now a position of strength at the club.
However, there is a fifth senior centre-half still among the ranks – Phil Jones.
The 29-year-old made his return to competitive action this weekend when turning out for the club’s Under-23s against Arsenal on Saturday.
Jones played the full 90 minutes in the 3-1 defeat in what was his first outing in the club’s colours since January, 2020. Dean Henderson also saw action amid his continued recovery from contracting Covid-19.
But with so many superior options ahead of Jones in the pecking order, his pathway to first-team action appears blocked.
As such, a recent report detailed Jones was the ‘obvious’ name heading a five-man list of potential January departures.
Manchester United make Rice their number one priority
Manchester United's transfer round up including Declan Rice, Bruno Fernandes and David de Gea.
Man Utd were reportedly open to he ex-England defender’s exit this summer, though his high salary deterred potential suitors. Newcastle were among the suitors credited with interest.
Nonetheless, the Sun now report Jones has been named in the club’s Premier League squad for the current season. A 33-man crop has been named rather than 25. The increased number is possible through eight of their players being under the age of 21.
One school of thought would suggest that move is with the intention of putting Jones in the shop window. If Jones can perform capably in limited outings this season, stronger interest could materialise in a future window.
West Ham facing Lingard bidding war?
Meanwhile, David Moyes remains keen to bring in Jesse Lingard during the January transfer window – but the West Ham boss has been warned to expect a bidding war for the Man Utd man.
The 28-year-old has fallen back to his previous level of game time following his loan spell in London. He starred for West Ham last season, netting nine goals in 16 games. But while a packed United September schedule presents opportunities, Lingard has still only played 28 minutes this season.
And pundit Kevin Phillips, speaking to Football Insider, insists there will be plenty of clubs keen to rival West Ham.
“It’s still a no brainer,” Phillips said of Lingard leaving in January. “We all know his game time will be limited and I don’t think he’ll sign a new deal.
“He will probably let his contract run down and he could go in January or wait for West Ham in the summer.
“Then he can demand even more wages and plenty of clubs can one-up each other then. So that might be the best move for him.
“Once it gets to January there will be other clubs interested, I’m sure. I wouldn’t say the writing is on the wall but it’s clear it’s time for Lingard to move on.