Phil Jones is getting close to full fitness again after not playing for Manchester United’s first team since January 2020, when he scored in our 6-1 FA Cup win against Tranmere.

Speaking with The Times, Jones has reflected back to the times under Jose Mourinho when he played through injuries.

I’d get swelling after training. You’d lay a ball off and any resistance against the knee was just agony. The merest nudge. For years I’d go into games thinking, ‘I shouldn’t really be playing,’ and players would look at me, see the swelling and be thinking, ‘He’s playing here?’ But I love playing and I’ll do anything for United. If I have to play at 60 per cent and know I can get through it, then why not?

After lockdown last year, United resumed training in May and during a simple exercise routine Jones felt his problems return.

I just couldn’t run, couldn’t pick my leg up to bend it. I just walked in. Everyone was saying, ‘What’s he doing?’ I’d lost my mind completely. I’m thinking, ‘I’m finished, can’t be bothered with all this any more.’ I went straight to the doc and said, ‘Enough’s enough. I’ve had too many anti-inflammatories, too many injections, too many close shaves. I need this sorted.

Jones then went to Barcelona to visit the world-leading specialist Dr Ramon Cugat. After the prescribed injections didn’t work, he had microfracture surgery in August 2020. His rehab included a week in Spain, then two months on crutches, with travel restrictions due Covid delaying the process as he was unable to continue with the regular visits to Cugat in Barcelona. Jones reflected on this time and how he would break down in to tears with his wife.

It was the lowest I’ve ever been as a human being. I used to come back [from United’s training ground] and be in bits. My head was an absolute mess. I’d be in tears. I’d say to Kaya, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ I remember us both crying.

Jones has had some playing time for the U-23s, completing two full 90 minutes games, and his knees appear to finally be on the mend.

It feels almost like I’ve started my career again. I feel young — not 29 but 25 or 26 — and because I’ve missed so much football I feel I have so much left in me.