Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho revealed that defenders Chris Smalling and Pahil Jones have futures at Old Trafford. This is despite the Portuguese gaffer criticizing the duo for their cautious approach to their recovery from injury.
“Of course they have. I hope this season. I hope this season,” Mourinho said, as reported by ESPN.
Smalling (knee) and Jones (foot) have missed United’s last seven matches. The United manager had challenged the pair to declare themselves fit for Thursday’s derby with Manchester City. However, neither has recovered in time, meaning Daley Blind is likely to start alongside Eric Bailly at the heart of United’s defense.
Both the players have been ruled out of the clash at the Etihad Stadium. They join the likes of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Juan Mata and Marcos Rojo.
Smalling, Jones can still work up to Mourinho’s good books
Despite failing to meet his demand, Mourinho insists Smalling and Jones can work their way back into his good books. When quizzed as to whether he thought players were less inclined to put their bodies on the line nowadays, he added: “Professional football at a high level? Yeah.”
“It’s not just about them. It’s about the philosophy and mentality around them. Cautious. Cautious. Cautious. Just a cautious approach. It’s a profile, it’s the philosophy of work. Just that,” Mourinho mentioned.
Although Manchester United will miss six of its first-team players, Mourinho has warned City manager Pep Guardiola not to underestimate the Red Devils. United head into the game on the back of three successive Premier League wins and a 23-match unbeaten run in the league that stretches back to October.
“I think maybe opponents they look at us with different eyes because we don’t have Zlatan and Paul and Marcos and Mata and Jones and Smalling. Maybe they look at us with different eyes but I think they are not stupid, they are not naive and they know that we are going to give them a fight,” Mourinho stressed.
The Red Devil’s hectic run until end of season
United’s hectic run-in, that could see them play another nine games if they reach the Europa League final, has been made even more difficult because of their depleted squad. But, Mourinho says the problems have only served to galvanize the rest of his players.
“I think so. I think the boys that are available, I think that they have a great feeling, you know,” Mourinho added.
“I think the fact that we are fighting for important things still is a good motivation to keep people together, to make people make an extra effort.”
United will look to avoid a defeat against City on Thursday as they fight to get into the top four in the Premier League table. The Red Devils are fighting to qualify for the Champions League next season.
United can also secure a place in Europe’s elite club competition by winning the Europa League. The Red Devils face Spanish side Celta Vigo in the first leg of the semi-final on May 4.
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