Victor Lindelof.

Centre-backs give Jose a selection dilemma

Ahead of Saturday's Premier League match against Crystal Palace, Jose Mourinho discussed his centre-back options and how he will manage them during a busy period ahead for the Reds.

Speaking on Friday in his pre-match press conference, the manager explained that he has a full squad available for the match at Old Trafford, which means he has Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo to choose from in central defence.  

Jose explained his current selection process when picking who to play in that position. 

“The situation is that we have five central defenders,” he told reporters. “It can be a little bit difficult to try to find the best combination, not just related to their quality but also related to the injury situation.

”It's a bit difficult to really go for a couple of players that are a little bit more open to injuries. You want continuity and [a] certain [number of] matches in a row, and then one of them is injured and then you have to break and start everything again.“ 

Jose Mourinho says

"We thought that Chris Smalling would give [Lindelof] some balance in relation to his qualities. Chris is very good in the air, he's very tall, he's dominant in the air.”

The boss spoke of the balance provided by his current pairing Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof, who have started United’s last six games together. 

“Victor in the building up is better than Chris so we found this balance, and again, I repeat, they are not perfect, nobody is perfect, but that couple is performing quite well.”

Mourinho also identified the strengths of Smalling, who has played in every Premier League game since late August.

“We thought that Chris Smalling would give [Lindelof] some balance in relation to his qualities. Chris is very good in the air - he's very tall and dominant.“ 

Lindelof, who was nominated for United’s Player of the Month in October and scored for Sweden earlier this week, received praise for the improvements he has shown since the start of the season. 

“I decide to give Victor the opportunity for his evolution,“ said Mourinho. ”Evolution with some mistakes, yes, because he is young, and especially young in the Premier League, but we decided to give him this continuity. I think it's clear this has improved his physical qualities.”

Jose also discussed his three other central defenders including Bailly, who hasn't featured for United since the 3-2 victory against Newcastle on 6 October. 

“We have Phil, we have Rojo and we have Eric,“ he said. ”I try to make them motivated and to make them motivated, I cannot select the same all the time. I can't put Phil Jones on the bench five matches in a row and never Rojo or Eric. I'm trying, again [it is] dependent on the matches and the situation, [but] I try.

Marcos Rojo.
Rojo is yet to make a first-team appearance for the Reds this season.

“Marcos has been injured for a lot of time, so he's a little bit behind, but Phil [Jones] and [Eric] Bailly are working like this.” The manager added: “When we play tomorrow [Saturday] we may have to make a rotation, and when we do those three will be there, ready to play.”

Mourinho confirmed that Bailly, who withdrew from the Ivory Coast squad through injury during the international break, will not be involved against Palace but explained that he could feature against Young Boys on Tuesday.

“So, I can tell you because he already knows that tomorrow Eric is not playing and is not even on the bench, but don't be surprised if next Tuesday he plays.”

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