Mourinho waits on key stars for season opener
Jose Mourinho remains hopeful that the Manchester United players who have returned late from the World Cup can play some part in our season opener against Leicester City.
The Reds have the honour of kicking off the 2018/19 Premier League campaign on Friday night, when Claude Puel’s side visit Old Trafford.
A number of United stars – including the likes of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young, Marouane Fellaini and Romelu Lukaku – have only just returned to training this week following their exploits in Russia with their respective countries.
During pre-season, Mourinho spoke about how the first three games of the new season – Leicester City, Brighton & Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur – could be difficult if players were unable to return to the squad, having starred for their nations at the World Cup this summer.
When asked in Thursday’s pre-match press conference if he feels more confident now players are back, the boss replied:
“No, but if they play tomorrow, they play after four days [back], so that's why I'm saying one thing is what you can expect from the players with a proper pre-season and another thing is what you can expect from players with three or four days' training.”
Mourinho admitted that his preference is to have first-team stars available, even if they’re not in peak condition, but did suggest 16-year-old forward Mason Greenwood may be an option to be on the bench against the Foxes due to a lack of strikers.
“Of course I prefer to look to the bench and to have them, than to have 16-year-old boys without the experience and power to be a Premier League player directly,” the boss said.
“Yes, I prefer to have them, even if they're not [in] top, top, top [condition] – of course, I prefer to have them. I believe that other managers in similar situations have a similar feeling as I have. To at least have them on the bench is one more option.”
‘I WILL SEE IF THEY CAN HELP US’
Fresh from a well-deserved break after winning the World Cup with France, Pogba has linked up again with his United team-mates at the Aon Training Complex this week. The boss explained that the midfielder is one of several players he will hold talks with to determine if they’re able to contribute to the cause in Friday’s opening game.
“[Paul] arrived on Monday, [feeling] happy, proud, with desire to work. He worked amazingly well on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and he's one of the players I have to speak with to see how physically and mentally he feels.
“But it's the same conversation I'm going to have with Ashley Young, Fellaini and Lingard to know how they feel physically and mentally to try to give us a help because if they feel they can help us – if it's 20 minutes, if it's 10 minutes, if it's half an hour – we don't have many solutions and we want to go with everything we have, so the way I see Paul is very well – I see him very, very well.
“But, of course, we need words with that small group to feel if they can give us a hand because it's an important match tomorrow. Every match now is important, every point is important, so we have to get the best out of every player.”
‘ANTHONY HASN’T HAD A PRE-SEASON’
Mourinho also spoke to reporters about Anthony Martial, who featured in the Reds’ first two pre-season friendlies in the United States before flying to Paris after his partner gave birth to their second child.
When asked why the French forward wasn’t part of the squad for last weekend’s final pre-season game against Bayern Munich, the boss said:
“Because he didn't have a pre-season. He had three days of pre-season, then nine days with no training, no football, absolutely nothing, so Anthony is in the group of the players that didn't have a pre-season – it's as simple as that.
“You try to make a case on it – there is no case on it. For nine days, he didn't train, so it's like starting again – the first three or four days of training and the first couple of matches against the American team [San Jose Earthquakes] and the Mexican team [Club America] where he played 40, 45 or 50 minutes.
“If you are nine days without one minute of training or football, you go back and you have to start with the other people. There is no story.”
The boss earlier confirmed that he is set to be without several first-team players against Leicester, including the likes of Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic and Antonio Valencia.