England and Manchester United star Phil Jones is facing World Cup heartbreak after he suffered a shoulder injury in his side’s 3-1 victory over Hull City this week. The utility man, who has been used by United in both his natural central defensive position, as well as a makeshift midfielder, was expected to be one of the first names on manager Roy Hodgson’s team sheet come the tournament in Brazil.
Now Hodgson may have to re-assess as he prepares to build a new-look defense in the absence of veterans John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. Although Jones has not enjoyed a good season at United, his tough-tackling no nonsense approach would provide a good contrast to the more marauding full-backs, such as Luke Shaw, Leighton Baines and Ashley Cole. However, the lack of first team action for Chelsea this season means the latter is also a doubt for the tournament.
Jones is thought to have suffered a dislocation after he clashed with Hull defender Maynor Figueroa when they competed for an early corner. The 22-year-old knew it could be serious by the look on his face as he grimaced and scowled his way down the tunnel.
However, the player is waiting to find out the true extent of the injury after the initial hospital scan was inconclusive. Hodgson is set to name a 30-strong preliminary squad on Monday and so will be in a better position in terms of knowing just how serious Jones’ injury is and whether the United star will make the World Cup or face heartbreak.
United interim manager Ryan Giggs was asked about Jones’ chances of World Cup selection and he was very coy on the matter. Reading his body language, a lot of media took it to mean Jones had very little chance of being fit for selection. However, Giggs was interviewed after the game and so there may have been some progress since.
If Jones does fail to recover in time, he will join other long-term absentees Andros Townsend (Tottenham Hotspur) and Theo Walcott (Arsenal) on the sidelines. Spurs defender Kyle Walker is also a major doubt having been out with a pelvic injury for the past couple of months.
Once Hodgson names his 30-man squad, he will gradually whittle it down to 23 ahead of the the tournament in Brazil. If United star Jones is faced with the heartbreak of missing the World Cup finals, it will open the door for another if somewhat less experienced, defender to stake his claim for a seat on the plane. There have been occasions where England managers have waited until the last minute to include injured players in their squads, such as forward Wayne Rooney and former England captain, David Beckham. However, the fact Jones is not as an integral part of the squad as those aforementioned, means his chances are fading fast.
World Cup Preview is a series providing commentary and analysis of the teams and players participating in this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd