Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho praised Phil Jones for his bravery after the defender made his first appearance for the club following ten months out injured.
Jones played the full 90 minutes for United in their 3-1 win over Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium, having recovered from knee ligament damage. The England defender’s previous first-team appearance had also been against Swansea, on Jan 2, when he was forced off with an ankle problem as United won 2-1 at Old Trafford.
Mourinho praised his entire team but singled out the makeshift defence in an interview with MUTV.
“I am really happy for all of them — but especially for people like Ashley Young, who was playing outside his position [at right-back],” Mourinho said. “Phil Jones was a brave guy to say ‘I am ready. I am ready for the team’ when he wasn’t ready because, after two or three months without kicking a ball, he was ready only in the mind. But in the mind is where it matters and he had a great performance.
“I am happy for Marcos [Rojo], playing his third consecutive match. I am happy for Matteo [Darmian] because left-back is not his position. In the defensive line, there was great personality and I’m really pleased for them.”
Jones admitted that it had been a “difficult” road back for him, telling MUTV: “I was delighted to get the start. I’ve worked hard to get back to where I am, fitness-wise. It’s been a difficult few months, watching the lads play and not being involved, but today was a really good feeling for me.”
Mourinho had been scathing after the 2-1 away defeat against Fenerbahce on Thursday, accusing the players of not being ready at the start of the game and questioning their commitment. He was in the opposite frame of mind after the win over Swansea, as United made a blistering start, racing into a 3-0 lead by the 33rd minute.
“I am really pleased. For all of us, from the United side, it was a calm day,” Mourinho said. “Since the first minute, we all felt that we were in the game, that we were stable, that we were in control.
“The players were really good in their focus, in their effort, in their commitment. In following the game plan, I think they were very good.”