Jose Mourinho says Paul Pogba will miss Sunday’s Premier League clash with Swansea City at Old Trafford, but should be back to face Celta Vigo in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final on Thursday.
Pogba limped off just before full-time in the 2-0 league win at Burnley last Sunday with a hamstring injury and was an absentee for Thursday’s 0-0 draw with local rivals Manchester City as a result.
And Mourinho has confirmed that the French midfielder will not be available for selection when Paul Clement’s relegation-threatened side visit the Theatre of Dreams at the weekend.
“[Paul will be back] for Celta,” Mourinho told reporters. “The only thing we can say is we are very unlucky and the small injuries, the Pogba one, Antonio Valencia last week, are the injuries of fatigue; the accumulation of matches which is normal.”
United face a hectic final few weeks of the season, with their Europa League campaign and top-four tilt combining to give them a potential eight-game run-in in the space of 24 days. And Mourinho has been left cursing his luck after a string of injuries has left his team short of centre-backs in particular, joking that he might even have to play himself at some stage, with only Eric Bailly, Daley Blind and Axel Tuanzebe available to play at the heart of defence.
“In this moment it’s the only option we have, Axel and Eric and Daley. I think Eric and Daley they played again absolutely amazing [against Man City]. I have to speak with them and see how they are and see how they feel. I am also training hard in the gym so I can be an option also: Mourinho and Tuanzebe!”
The Portuguese boss insists that the departures of midfielders Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger in early 2017 were consequences of a competitive squad and their current difficulties with injuries simply couldn’t have been foreseen.
“They were our decision. To have lots of players without playing is also something that the players they don’t want,” he explained. “We didn’t tell Morgan we want to sell him, Morgan asked ‘Please sell me, I want to go, I want to play every game’ so sometimes there is this dilemma of keeping a bigger squad but the players don’t want to stay.
“We arrive into an extreme situation where it must be unique in football that two cruciate ligament injuries happen in the same match. In my career I had one in 17 years… one cruciate in 17 years. And now against Anderlecht I have two in one match [Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo]. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones was in the English national team training.
“Maybe it is a blessing, maybe it is an opportunity to make the team strong, maybe it is an opportunity to make them become mentally stronger, maybe it’s a blessing. So let’s see if they can come back. I think the first one to be back is Juan Mata, which will give us another option in attack, but in reality what we need now is one of the two central defenders to be back.”
United go into the match on Sunday trailing neighbours City by one point in the race for fourth place, but they know that victory over the Swans will take them into the top four for 24 hours at least ahead of Liverpool's clash with Watford on Monday.