Why Phil Jones' extension is a catastrophe for Manchester United fans
Background photo: Edwin11, CC BY 2.0
Manchester United recently announced that Phil Jones signed a contract extension to keep him at Old Trafford another four years. Many United fans stormed social media to express their displeasure. For them, it is a step in the wrong direction.
The 26-year-old signed for Sir Alex Ferguson from Blackburn Rovers in 2011. Despite the legendary manager touting him to one day become the Red Devil's best player, the Preston native hasn't asserted himself. His versatility makes him a valuable squad player which is why the club extended his stay but his proclivity for high-profile gaffes is legendary. It isn't easy for United supporters to forget the two goals he gifted Tottenham even though so many calamitous events have occurred at the club in the year since that match. Four more years of waiting nervously for his next howler isn't how they wish to spend their time.
Squad players are valuable. Having them on the books frees up funds for more critical purchases. Between errors, Beeker is a solid player who can play across the backline or in defensive midfield, his impressive array of grimaces perhaps the only thing at which he is more versatile.
That said, fans like to trot out the opinion that Manchester United is the biggest and greatest club in the history of English football, the richest according to Deloitte's latest ranking. Such a club should always be challenging for top honours at home and in Europe. In their minds, even the players who don't make the matchday squad should be flawless, world-class specimens. In their eyes, the only complaint that should arise about a player is that the manager doesn't play him enough. Offering contracts to players who don't perform up to their standard offends.
Chris Smalling was offered a new deal a fortnight ago and Ashley Young is expected to re-sign in the near future. So too Juan Mata. These are players on their last legs who cannot lift United to the very pinnacle of the game. They are short-term solutions.
Fans see contract renewals as the club expressing its satisfaction with the current squad. Selling Marouane Fellaini after Jose Mourinho left the club was a welcome indication to fans that the club wanted to become younger, quicker and play on the front foot with greater skill. Keeping Jones and the other veterans contradicts that notion.
Challenging for the title requires top players who are approaching or in their prime. Supporters want to see the club sign a defender in the same elite class as Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool. They have their eyes on Toby Aldeweireld or Kalidou Koulibaly. Extending Jones and Smalling makes it less likely such a signing will occur.
United fans are accustomed to winning trophies. The FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League won by Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho in the past five seasons aren't enough. Because they haven't won the Premier League or contended in the Champions League, supporters don't believe in the current squad. They want visible proof the club intends to build an elite squad. Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Ashley Young are not that proof.