Mourinho mulls over right-back dilemma
Jose Mourinho has admitted he has a selection issue at right-back for Manchester United’s remaining pre-season games.
Regular captain Antonio Valencia has left the squad in the United States to return home after picking up what is believed to be a calf injury in the first half of the goalless draw with San Jose Earthquakes, which is expected to sideline the Ecuadorian for the start of the 2018/19 campaign.
Ashley Young and Victor Lindelof, who both fulfilled the role at times last season, are still away on holiday after reaching the latter stages of the World Cup with England and Sweden respectively.
The boss has already suggested that summer signing Diogo Dalot isn’t expected to be available until September as he recovers from the injury he sustained while at his former club FC Porto.
Speaking after the Reds beat AC Milan on penalties in our International Champions Cup opener in California, Mourinho confirmed that Matteo Darmian, who has featured in all three of the Reds’ pre-season fixtures so far, has expressed a desire to leave and he won’t stand in the Italian’s way if the club receives the right offer.
“Matteo wants to leave and I think when a player wants to leave, if the right offer arrives, you have to be human and let the player follow his instincts but not at any price obviously and, until now, the offers we’ve got for Matteo are not even close to being accepted,” said Jose in his post-match press conference.
While assessing his options for the right-back berth, the boss also confirmed that Lindelof will return to training next week, ahead of his second full season at the club.
“Valencia is injured and he’ll be injured for the beginning of the Premier League [season]. Diogo Dalot is also in [the] recovering phase, he’ll not be ready for the beginning of the Premier League."
Jose went on: “Ashley Young, who is a possibility to play [at] right-back, is on holiday. I don’t know if he fancies to be back before that and to put himself available for the team or if he prefers to stay on holiday, I don’t know.
“Victor Lindelof is another possibility to play right-back. He’s not a right-back, but it’s a possibility to play and Victor starts training next Monday. I will send people to Manchester to start training with Victor.
“For him, it doesn’t make sense to come to the US on Monday when we leave on Tuesday. So, if Matteo leaves, he leaves because the right offer arrives. If Matteo stays, I’m very happy, and then yes, you are right, if he stays he can be important for us.”
The boss handed the captain’s armband to Darmian against AC Milan, the club where he started his career, and praised the defender’s professionalism during his three years with the Reds so far.
“First of all [I gave him] the captaincy because he’s a fantastic guy and a tremendous professional in my two years and also I believe with Mr [Louis] van Gaal before me. He’s the kind of guy that’s always ready to give what he has.
“He grew up at AC Milan and for him, to play against his childhood club and to be the captain has a nice meaning, even in a friendly.”
Should Darmian not be available, it effectively leaves Tim Fosu-Mensah, who played regularly at right-back on loan at Crystal Palace last season, as probably the only option to the boss for the Reds’ final three warm-up matches before our Premier League opener against Leicester City on 10 August. Axel Tuanzebe and Ro-Shaun Williams have also operated in the position in the past.
United take on arch-rivals Liverpool in Michigan at 22:05 BST on Saturday and face Champions League holders Real Madrid in Miami at 01:05 BST on Wednesday in our last matches on Tour 2018, presented by Aon. Mourinho’s men then return to Europe to play in a friendly against Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in Germany at 19:15 BST on Sunday 5 August.
Fans will be able to watch all three matches exclusively live on MUTV.