Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is facing something of a selection crisis ahead of the visit of West Bromwich Albion this weekend when the Premier League resumes, with as many as seven first-team players either struggling for fitness or already ruled out of the clash.
Both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera are already suspended for the match, the former for his retrospective ban after elbowing Bournemouth’s Tyrone Mings and the latter for being sent-off in the FA Cup defeat by Chelsea two weeks ago.
The loss of their top scorer in Ibrahimovic is enough cause for concern, given United have struggled for goals this season away from the Swede, but the international break has also taken its toll on the team with a number of injury doubts arising ahead of this weekend’s encounter.
Phil Jones suffered a toe injury during England training last week after being tackled by United teammate Chris Smalling, who himself succumbed to injury days later after suffering a knock ahead of the win over Lithuania.
It leaves Mourinho with a lack of options in defence that is likely to see him deploy Marcos Rojo alongside Eric Bailly at centre-back, with Daley Blind on the left given Luke Shaw’s fall down the pecking order.
Along with Jones and Smalling, midfielder Marouane Fellaini has also returned from international duty with a “toe complaint” that could leave Mourinho short in midfield. Mourinho is hopeful that Fellaini will recover in time to face the Baggies, but Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has already ruled him out of the international friendly with Russia on Tuesday night.
Paul Pogba could also be absent for the match after he limped out of the Europa League victory over FC Rostov two weeks ago, with a hamstring injury likely to force him out of this weekend’s encounter at least, and with the visit of Everton coming just three days later, the world record signing could miss the next two games until he recovers.
The final injury worry on Mourinho’s hands is that of captain Wayne Rooney after the striker was injured in a challenge by Jones during United training just before the international break. Even if Rooney recovers in time to face a West Brom side filled with confidence thanks to the 3-1 victory over Arsenal last time out, Mourinho’s reluctance to play him in midfield leaves him short on options in the middle of the park, having allowed Bastian Schweinsteiger to leave the club to join Chicago Fire in the United States.
Michael Carrick partnered Fellaini in central midfield in the 3-1 victory over Middlesbrough nine days ago, and if the Belgian fails to recover in time to start the match, Mourinho may have to turn to Timothy Fosu-Mensah to plug the gap, with an attacking trio of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata and one of Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young filling in on the left wing behind striker Marcus Rashford.