Saturday 3 December 2016

Man United injury crisis ahead of Arsenal clash with seven players in danger of missing out

James Ducker

Published 15/11/2016 | 15:32

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho could be without seven senior players against Arsenal at Old Trafford on Saturday, including his entire first choice defence, as the Manchester United manager faces up to a worsening injury crisis.

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Centre-halves Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling will miss the game as well as suspended striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic while Mourinho has serious doubts over the fitness of captain Wayne Rooney, midfielder Marouane Fellaini and full backs Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw.

Rooney is rated as “60-40” to miss the visit of Arsenal after suffering a swollen knee on England duty that prompted the forward to return to Manchester on Monday for further assessment.

Fellaini is struggling with a calf injury sustained in the 3-1 win at Swansea City nine days ago. Valencia has been sidelined for the past three weeks with a broken right arm, but while his recovery is progressing more quickly than expected, the Arsenal match may come too soon for the Ecuador right back.

Mourinho is waiting to see how Shaw responds in training later this week before making a decision over the left back’s availability.

Shaw has been hampered by pains in the right leg he broke last season and is likely to undergo more rigorous assessment on Thursday, when Mourinho and United’s medical staff will see how he responds when asked to exert sustained pressure on the leg through running exercises.

Bailly is not expected back until Christmas after suffering knee ligament damage last month and Smalling, who, like Shaw, appeared to have his bravery questioned by Mourinho after missing the Swansea match, has a broken toe, with United refusing to say when they expect to see him back in action. United denied reports last week that Smalling could be out for four to six weeks.

Mourinho has ordered a review of United’s medical set-up after being alarmed by the number of injuries the club has suffered in recent years and the latest problems are only likely to harden his belief that improvements are required.

He will also hope United suffer no more injury concerns during tonight’s (TUES) round of international fixtures as he goes in search of only a third win in nine Premier League games this weekend. The Portuguese will tell his players there is no margin for error against Arsenal. Defeat would leave United trailing Arsene Wenger’s side – currently fourth, two points adrift of leaders Liverpool - by nine points.

The likely absence of Rooney in addition to Ibrahimovic will offer Marcus Rashford the opportunity to start at centre-forward against Arsenal. The England striker has spent most of the season marooned out wide under Mourinho and his form has dipped as a consequence but United’s injury woes could mean him finally being unleashed through the middle.

Meanwhile, midfielder Michael Carrick, 35, has admitted this could be his last season at Old Trafford after 10 years at the club. “There’s always a chance of that, isn’t there,” he said. “It is such a great club with great players, you can’t take it for granted and thankfully I’m here this season and playing my part. Hopefully I can play more of a part in the months ahead, strive for success and try to get some sort of silverware, because winning trophies is why we are here.”

Asked if he would like to remain beyond the end of his current contract, which expires in June, Carrick said: “Yeah, but I’m 35 now and I have to be realistic. I’m not going to make predictions about what is going to be happening next season.

"We are not even at Christmas yet and I just want to play as many games as I can and see how I’m feeling, how the body is feeling.

“That is the biggest gauge to see if I can still do it, if I feel I can still do it and the manager feels that. There is a lot of things to come into the equation, so I’m not going to be making any rash judgements just yet.”

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