Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has confirmed defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling both picked up "long-term injuries" during the recent international break.
Smalling dropped out of the England squad last Friday (24 March) and returned to his club carrying an unspecified injury, with Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson called into replace him. Prior to that, Smalling had inadvertently injured his club teammate Jones while with the national team, with reports suggesting the former Blackburn Rovers defender had suffered a toe injury in the training ground tackle.
Despite claims suggesting Jones's injury was not as bad as first feared, Mourinho struck a bleak note when providing an update on the two during Friday's press conference.
"They [Smalling and Jones] are long-term injuries," he said ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash with West Brom. "The important ones are the ones who are ready to play. That is the way we have to think, we cannot be here crying or speaking about the players who are not available to play.
Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly are United's remaining two first-choice options at centre-half ahead of a packed fixture list that sees the club play nine times in three competitions in April.
United start that run against the Baggies on Saturday and in addition to the loss of Smalling and Jones, Mourinho has a number of additional selection headaches to contend with.
Paul Pogba has been ruled out, having failed to recover from a hamstring problem suffered during the Europa League win over Rostov prior to the international break, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera both serving suspensions.
Antonio Valencia and Rojo are both available for selection after far-flung international commitments with Ecuador and Argentina respectively, but after starting and competing in both World Cup qualifiers for their country, the pair could be feeling fatigued, Mourinho admits.
"They [Valencia and Rojo] are not with injuries that stop them to play. Tired? Yes, of course but ready to help us."
He continued: "You know about Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] and [Ander] Herrera, they are suspended. You know that Herrera has two matches banned for that episode against Chelsea. You know what happened in the English national team with Smalling and Jones. You know that we have also [Paul] Pogba injured.
"But I repeat they're not important. The important players are the ones that are ready to play, and the ones I trust, and the ones who are going to give everything tomorrow to try to keep us in the fight for the top four."
Mourinho did confirm, however, that captain Wayne Rooney is fit and available for Saturday's clash.
You may be interested in:
- West Brom vs Manchester United: Late decisions to be made on Nacer Chadli and Salomon Rondon
- Manchester United defender Guillermo Varela could miss season with ankle setback
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms Manchester United contract talks
- Injury woe for Manchester United as Chris Smalling and Phil Jones suffer 'long-term' injuries