Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho sends Victor Lindelof warning to Eric Bailly and Phil Jones
Jose Mourinho has warned Manchester United defenders Eric Bailly and Phil Jones that their places in his first-choice starting line-up are not guaranteed, with Victor Lindelof waiting in the wings.
Lindelof and Chris Smalling will start in the centre of defence for United's opening Champions League group game against Basel out of necessity, with Bailly and Jones both serving European bans.
The reserve pair have not played a minute of Premier League football so far this season, but Mourinho claims that even if Bailly and Jones were available, fixture congestion would have led to him starting with Lindelof and Smalling.
“I don't think Bailly and Jones are better than them,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Monday. “I think they are the same level, they are just different players.
“Even if Jones and Bailly were not suspended, probably I would still play Lindelof and Smalling tomorrow because for me they are the same level. It is just a question of option.
“We were playing one match per week, I never felt reasons to make changes, but I play them tomorrow and, for me, it is exactly the same as Bailly and Jones.”
While Smalling is an Old Trafford veteran, Lindelof is new arrival having only joined in June as part of a £31.5m deal with Benfica, another of United's Champions League group stage opponents.
Mourinho has insisted since the start of the season that the Swede needs more time to adapt to the rigours of English football before becoming a first-team regular, but he believes that Bailly and Jones should be “worried” by the prospect of eventually losing their position to Lindelof.
“I think it is easier for [Lindelof] to play Champions League,” Mourinho explained. “It is more comparable to the Portuguese style of football. It is more different in relation to the Premier League, so no need to adapt to Champions League. He needs a little bit of time to adapt to the Premier League, especially to the new Premier League.
“Intelligent kid, very bright, very calm. He knows that step-by-step he is going to be there, but for tomorrow I am more than confident and I know he is more than confident.
“He is a very good player with a very good potential, and honestly I think there are reasons for the other boys, Eric and Jones, for them to be worried because Victor is a very good player.”
Independent News Service