Jose Mourinho could be without six first-team players when Manchester United welcome Chelsea to Old Trafford in a crunch tie on Sunday.
Manchester United and Chelsea are set to renew their fabled Premier League rivalry when they face off in a crunch tie at Old Trafford on Sunday with major stakes at play in the top four battle. Jose Mourinho too, will reignite his personal, bitter battle with Antonio Conte, but has a few problems off the pitch before he does that.
The issues begin right at the back for the Manchester United boss, with Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo, who are both struggling with knocks, still unavailable. Daley Blind is on the sidelines as well, with the Dutchman recovering from a muscle injury.
Mourinho though, will be monitoring the fitness of Eric Bailly who, if available to start, should facilitate a change of system. The Manchester United manager is expected to deploy a three-man backline, featuring Bailly, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof, as he usually does when playing against sides with a similar system.
Up ahead in midfield, Ander Herrera will not be able to repeat his heroics from the corresponding fixture last season, with Mourinho confirming in his pre-match press conference that the Spaniard will be unavailable for an indefinite period due to the muscle injury that he sustained in the midweek game against Sevilla.
“Ander is out. I don’t know the final diagnosis but I know he’ll be out for a few weeks. I don’t know how many is a few – two, three, four, five, six weeks – I don’t know, but a few weeks, for sure. Coming back from injury – nobody else.”
Meanwhile, Mourinho hinted towards Paul Pogba’s inclusion, praising the Frenchman’s professionalism whenever he was named on the bench. Pogba is likely to line up alongside Nemanja Matic in midfield, with Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw expected to be the wing-backs.
Upfront, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku, who would be hoping to improve his record against his former employers, are certain to start. The third spot in attack is a toss up between Anthony Martial and Juan Mata, with the former likely to get the nod to facilitate a direct approach in attack against a suspect Chelsea defence.
Alternatively, if Mourinho chooses to add to the numbers in midfield, Scott McTominay could get the nod ahead of Martial, with Sanchez and Lukaku combining upfront. Otherwise, the Manchester United academy graduate is likely to be an option from the bench depending on the circumstances that ensue.