Phil Jones admits he was left feeling the physical effects of his overdue Manchester United return on Sunday (6 November) but is determined to hold onto a first-team role now he is back in Jose Mourinho's plans.
Jones, 24, last played a competitive game on 2 January prior to his return to the starting XI on Sunday at Swansea City. With Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind all unavailable, the former Blackburn Rovers defender partnered Marcos Rojo at the heart of defence and enjoyed a solid if uneventful return to action as United ran out comfortable 3-1 winners.
Mourinho praised his defender post-match, insisting he had made a "brave" decision in making himself available for selection while seemingly questioning the commitment of those who were not so forthcoming.
Speaking to United's official website, Jones said: "It's been a nightmare. It's been difficult for me but all I can do is keep plugging away and never give up. Today is an example; I've worked so hard to get back and play in games like that. It's what I love doing. I just want to play as many games as possible, if the manager sees that I'm fit enough to play and doing a good job for him, I'm delighted to be playing again."
Asked whether or not he was feeling the effects of his lengthy lay-off, Jones said: "Yeah, I suppose I was towards the end! Your calves go or your hamstring is a bit tight, but it's just great to be back with a few scrapes and bruises on my legs again. It'll be nice to wake up a bit sore in the morning and remember what it feels like."
With Bailly not expected to return until the festive period and Smalling potentially out of favour, Jones will likely have more first-team opportunities following the international break.