Sir Alex Ferguson's "best ever player" still without new club after Man Utd exit

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Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson's "best ever player" still without new club after Man Utd exit

Sir Alex Ferguson's reign was about to end in the manner that defined his Manchester United legacy - by lifting another Premier League title.

Following the 3-0 home win over Aston Villa, naturally, the frenzy centred around the departing Ferguson and Robin van Persie, whose sublime hat trick had lit up the night amid a raucous atmosphere at Old Trafford. And any anxiety from fans over what lay ahead without the iconic Scottish manager was temporarily banished.

But Ferguson, now 81, still had reason to be confident over the future. But when he outlined the star he expected to be at the forefront of continued success at United, it wasn't Van Persie, or Wayne Rooney, or David de Gea who he billed as one of most talented stars to ever set foot in the club.

A 21-year-old Phil Jones finished with 24 club appearances to his name that season, two years after his £16.5 million move from Blackburn. He'd been restricted to just 17 in the league itself, amid an injury stricken campaign. The latter notion would prove a harrowing prelude for what was to follow.

But that night against Villa he had shone brightly, leading Ferguson to make a staggering assessment: “You saw (Phil) Jones tonight,” he remarked after the win. “I think Jones may be one of the best players we have ever had, no matter where we play him.

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“At 21 years of age, he is going to be a phenomenal player. I think he can play anywhere on the pitch. He has such a massive influence, with his instinct and reading of the game. He has a drive about him.”

Sir Alex Ferguson's "best ever player" still without new club after Man Utd exitPhil Jones Sir Alex Ferguson with the Premier League trophy (Getty Images)

HAVE YOUR SAY! Why did it go wrong for Phil Jones at Man United? Comment below.

Indeed, by that point the versatility of the English international was already apparent. He'd served for Ferguson as a right back, centre back, and in central midfield. His ability to adapt had many touting a stellar career both in the red of United and the white of England.

Little over a decade on from Ferguson's glowing appraisal though, and Jones' career is in the balance. There were FA Cup and Europa League wins, in which Jones was an unused substitute in both finals, but his injury issues became as persistent as they were chronic - and the 31-year old was released this summer having made just six Premier League appearances in his final four seasons.

None of those came in his final campaign, with Erik ten Hag later confirming that Jones had not completed a full training session since he had been appointed as manager last May, having re-aggravated a knee injury during pre-season. And now career salvation is proving hard to come by.

Sir Alex Ferguson's "best ever player" still without new club after Man Utd exitJones was constantly hampered by injuries at United

More than a month after he was officially released, Jones has not been snapped up by another club. Transfer links and reported interest has been scarce. The player whose prestigious talent was never fulfilled currently faces the prospect of being unemployed for the foreseeable.

Jones deserves more than to have his career forever tagged by injury hell. Ferguson spoke as if his final title win would serve as the springboard for Jones to forge a big legacy at Old Trafford. On the contrary, it proved the pinnacle.

Fraser Watson

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