Phil Jones has angrily hit back at his two-game European ban for swearing at an anti-doping official, writes John Cross in Valletta .
England international Jones was found guilty of “directing insulting and abusive language” and showing “a lack of cooperation and respect” towards the official.
It came after Jones tried to celebrate with his team-mates but got hauled off after being randomly chosen for a drugs test.
The suspension means he will miss United’s opening Champions League group game at home to Basel on September 12, having also sat out last month’s UEFA Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid.
Jones does admit he swore, but insists it was only because he was upset at not being able to join his teammates in holding up a banner in tribute to the 22 victims of the Manchester bomb attack — which had taken place just 48 hours earlier.
Ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Malta here, he explained: “I knew on about 75 minutes that me and Daley (Blind) were up for doping. The doctor told us, which was not a problem. It was fine by me, I’ve done it many times before.
“But it’s not as if we had just won the Mickey Mouse league. We had won the Europa League .
“I’m sure anyone can understand you work so hard all year round to win a prestige competition like that – then someone says you can’t celebrate with your team.
“We had planned to do the banner for the Manchester attacks, considering we are a Manchester team based in Manchester – but it wasn’t to be [for me].
“I fully complied with rules and did my urine sample, did my blood sample and ended up with a two-game ban. To be honest, I couldn’t believe it. It’s harsh. You see players go in for leg-breaking challenges and they get a one- or two-game ban.
“I could understand it if I didn’t comply with the rules, but I did.
“Maybe there was language that was inappropriate, but it definitely wasn’t directed at the official himself. I definitely didn’t look at him in his eye and say that he was this and that.
“Looking back on it now, did I deserve a fine? Possibly. But a two-game ban is a bit out of the ordinary.
“They said did I want to leave any comments, I said no, walked out of the room and I am sure they have seen far worse in their time. I have seen far worse — I am not going to name names. Nothing has happened.
“I have moved on from that. It’s done now. I have got the one-game ban and I will serve it and look forward to the Champions League.”
Jones has had a stop-start United career – largely because of injuries – and has often been weighed down by high expectations set by former Old Trafford boss Sir Alex Ferguson who said he could be the greatest player in the club’s history.
But only now is he really getting into a good rhythm again under current manager Jose Mourinho (who has been equally complimentary) and admits those Fergie comments went over his head.
“At the time you are young and you just read the comments but it goes straight over your head. You’re not interested,” he admitted.
“Four, five years ago whenever it happened you think, ‘Oh, that’s good’ and you go out to Nando’s with your mates!
“The manager says nice things but I don’t like to sit there and think that’s nice because football is a very, very strange game. You can be up there one minute and down there the next.
“You just have to – it sounds stupid – take each day as it comes and every day is a different day.
“I have seen comments (from Mourinho) and it’s nice to hear that from the manager but I am under no illusions. It’s a long season ahead and things can change very quickly in football and I need to keep doing what I am doing in training and in matches as well.”