Manchester United defender Phil Jones has handed Louis van Gaal a welcome boost after making his return from injury during the Red Devils' 7-0 thrashing of Norwich City in the U21 Premier League on Monday (8 February). The defender has been sidelined since the beginning of the year with an ankle injury. His ability to play across the defence will be needed as they enter a crucial part of the campaign.
The Dutch manager has been facing a major injury crisis in defence during the course of the season and currently has just four fit defenders in the senior squad, which includes recently drafted youth team prospect Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. Jones can provide cover at right-back and centre-back and with United competing in the FA Cup, the Europa League and fighting for a top four place in the Premier League, his return will be a massive boost for the manager.
The 23-year-old defender, who has not featured since the 20-time English champions' 2-1 win over Swansea, played 58 minutes with the club's reserves continuing their winning run as they look to catch Sunderland at the top of the U21 Premier League table. The England international has had an injury interrupted season and has made just 14 appearances in all competitions for United thus far, which has seen him fall down the pecking order, with Daley Blind now the manager's preferred choice in central defence alongside Chris Smalling.
Jones is likely to be fast-tracked into the first-team owing to Guillermo Varela's injury during the U21 clash against the Canaries. The Uruguayan was providing cover at right-back and Jones is likely to be brought in as defensive cover for Matteo Darmian, who has also only recently returned from injury. Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw continue to be sidelined, with a comeback in the near future looking unlikely for the trio.