Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho feared defender Phil Jones would never return to his best form due to his injury struggles.
Jones, 24, is set to start his fourth consecutive game when United host West Ham in the Premier League on Sunday.
But even Mourinho felt the centre-back would find it hard to recapture his best after a 2015-16 campaign during which he played just 10 league games and had a knee injury earlier this season.
“His condition looks very good and his confidence is improving,” the Portuguese tactician told UK newspapers.
“Phil is playing really well, no mistakes in 90 minutes, and I’m really happy for him because so many people had him down as injury prone and believed it would be hard for him to get back to his best level.
“I have to confess that when he was injured again at the beginning of the season even I was feeling that fear but he has put in some great performances in the past weeks to give us the stability we need after losing [Eric] Bailly and [Chris] Smalling.”
In an era during which playing out from the back is considered vital, Mourinho enjoys simply seeing Jones defend.
He said: “He likes to defend as a defender.
“Sometimes defenders now think the most important quality is to build from the back.
“That is not the most important quality. The most important quality is to defend.”