Jose Mourinho has launched a scathing condemnation of international friendlies after losing Manchester United defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling to injury on England duty.
Smalling suffered an injury to his right leg during England’s friendly defeat to Germany last Wednesday and has since been seen sporting a brace.
And Jones could be out for up to a month after injuring a toe in training, ironically after a challenge by Smalling.
The pair were ruled out of Sunday’s World Cup qualifying victory over Lithuania and will now miss the visit of West Bromwich Albion to Old Trafford on Saturday, when Mourinho was already without the injured Paul Pogba and suspended pair of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera.
Mourinho has reacted by voicing his steadfast opposition to mid-season international friendlies.
“I am totally against the friendly matches,” Mourinho said. “I think friendly matches for the national team only make sense before the final phases.
“A couple of weeks before the Euros or a couple of weeks before the World Cup makes sense. But mid-season friendly matches mixed with qualification matches, I don’t think that makes sense.
“On top of that the matches are not really big matches so I am not a big fan. But I think one day I will be there [as a national team manager] so I cannot be very critical.
“I don’t know how but both central defenders [Jones and Smalling] got injured in the English camp even before the match.
“The match was on the Sunday against Lithuania and they were injured in the training session. We [have] lost four [players], I think Pogba is also out, that’s five, so we are a bit in trouble.”
Mourinho is also concerned about what condition defenders Marcos Rojo and Antonio Valencia will return to Manchester on Thursday afternoon after long trips back for South America where they were playing for Argentina and Ecuador respectively.
Rojo played a full game against Bolivia in the draining altitude of La Paz while Valencia also featured for 90 minutes against Colombia in Quito and Mourinho believes counterpart Tony Pulis will have an advantage come Saturday, even if his claim West Brom only had one player away on international duty was wrong.
"I watched Valencia's match yesterday in Ecuador, Marcos Rojo in Bolivia, but they don’t arrive until Thursday afternoon,” Mourinho said.
"If you compare our situation with our opponents, West Bromwich Albion, only one player on international duty. They had time to work, time to rest and prepare. It’s going to be hard.”