Manchester United have suffered a major blow after manager Jose Mourinho confirmed that both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have both suffered “long-term injuries” which could rule them out for the rest of the season.
Both central defenders were injured while on international duty with England over the last fortnight, with Smalling actually injuring Jones with a tackle that left his teammate with a suspected broken toe during a training session last week, before suffering a knee injury himself a few days later.
The double-blow leaves Mourinho short on defensive options, with Eric Bailly likely to be partnered with Marcos Rojo at centre-back for this weekend’s visit of West Bromwich Albion to Old Trafford, with Daley Blind and Timothy Fosu-Mensah the only other recognised central defenders in Mourinho’s squad.
However, after confirming that he will be without at least four first-team players – and potentially five with doubts over Paul Pogba’s fitness – Mourinho refused to look at the negatives and instead claimed he will focus on the players who are available.
“They’re not important,” Mourinho insisted. “The important ones are the ones that are ready to play. That’s the way we have to think, you cannot be here crying or speaking about the players that are not available to play.
“You know that Zlatan and Herrera are suspended, you know that there is a two-match ban for that episode against Chelsea and he has a two-match ban.
“You know what happened in the England national team with Smalling and Jones, you know that we have also Pogba injured, but I repeat they’re not important. The important players are the ones who are ready to play and the ones that I trust and the ones that are going to give everything tomorrow to try and keep us in the fight for the top four.”
Pushed on Pogba’s condition, Mourinho simply replied: “I don’t know.”
There was good news for United too though, with captain Wayne Rooney recovering from the knock that kept him out of England’s two internationals against Germany and Lithuania, though the forward is unlikely to start against West Brom even though star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is suspended.
Ander Herrera will also miss the match through suspension as he completes his two-match ban following his red card against Chelsea in the FA Cup defeat earlier this month.