Exclusive - Manchester United will let Phil Jones leave on loan in January, with as many as seven other Premier League clubs and Scottish champions Celtic keeping tabs on the centre-back.
Jones hasn’t appeared in the Premier League since January when United were beaten 2-0 by Burnley at Old Trafford, and has only played 135 minutes in the league since August 2019.
Under contract until at least 2023, the defender has been nursing a long-term knee problem and wasn’t even included in the squad lists registered by United for the Premier League or Champions League, although he is expected to have recovered in time for the winter transfer window.
90min has been informed by a source the club would ideally like to sell, but while a lack of games makes that unlikely, arranging a loan at the very least could still remove a substantial chunk of his salary from the wage bill, as well as help establish a market for a permanent deal in future.
Even though he hasn’t been playing, there is still considerable interest in Jones, who is still only 28 and has a Premier League winner’s medal in his personal trophy case.
Newcastle registered interest in Jones during the summer, asking to be kept informed of the situation, and Magpies boss and ex-United captain Steve Bruce has been in contract with assistant coach Michael Carrick to check on the player’s fitness.
But Newcastle are not alone because Leicester, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, Burnley and Southampton are all also showing interest and keeping tabs on Jones. Celtic, already interested in Dean Henderson and Jesse Lingard, have asked to be kept informed too.
From Jones’ perspective, he still has ambitions of forcing his way back into the England squad – it has only been two-and-a-half years since his last appearance and he went to the 2018 World Cup. He hasn’t lost any belief in his own ability and would also like to get into the United team, but he is aware that isn’t really an option and is happy to look for chances elsewhere instead.
United successfully sold Chris Smalling to Roma in October, but the club is looking to move on more centre-backs in Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo and maybe even regular starter Victor Lindelof.
Centre-back has been identified as a priority position for the club to strengthen in 2021, with United putting emerging Villarreal and Spain defender Pau Torres at the top of their shortlist alongside coveted RB Leipzig man Dayot Upamecano. Ben White, Caglar Soyuncu and Jules Kounde are other options.
United and the rest of the Premier League ‘Big Six’ are additionally keeping an eye on Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and would be interested in the veteran 34-year-old should he decide he is ready for a new challenge when his current contract expires in June.
The Premier League sides are yet to be convinced that Ramos will genuinely be available, but the latest gossip from Spain is that he is at least thinking about moving on.