A provocative tweet that appeared to invite abuse of Phil Jones from one of Twitter's official in-house feeds @TwitterUK, has been deleted after Manchester United complained that the social media giant had breached its own guidelines around harassment.

The tweet which was posted at 8.56 pm on Tuesday evening by the @TwitterUK account that has more than 454,000 followers said "Name a better footballer than Phil Jones", a social media construct that many interpreted as an invitation to criticise United's 28-year-old England international. It was reported by United and representatives of the player to Twitter that the tweet breached the guidelines published by the social media site itself.

United, with a powerful social media presence, and more than 22.6 million followers to its own @ManUtd account, submitted a report over the course of Wednesday and the tweet was subsequently deleted by Twitter.

Screenshot of Twitter UK's deleted tweet. Photo / Twitter
Screenshot of Twitter UK's deleted tweet. Photo / Twitter

Under Twitter's guidelines on "abusive behaviour", the social media site says: "You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behaviour an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else's voice."

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Twitter was also contacted by the player's long-term agent John Colquhoun, the former Scotland international. The social media site had used a new tool for the post that allows users to control who can reply to a tweet. Although the tweet had attracted multiple comments before it was deleted, it was widely criticised by users as inciting abuse of Jones. The player himself has 2.2 million followers to his own account but has not tweeted since 2017.

Jones is not in United's Europa League squad in Germany because of a knee problem. He has not played for United since the FA Cup tie with Tranmere Rovers in January but has no long-term injury problems and is eager to get on with his career when the new season begins.

A Twitter spokesperson said: "Our aim was to showcase our new product feature, conversation controls, which allows you to select who can reply to a tweet. It was not our intention to cause upset and once we realised our mistake, we immediately deleted the tweet."