Injuries became a worryingly frequent part of life for Manchester United under Louis van Gaal’s tutelage. The Dutchman experienced two drastic drops in the numbers of players available to him during his time at the club that required untested youth products to be thrown in at the deep end on several occasions. The intense training sessions that Van Gaal demanded, in an effort to build up the strength of his players didn’t seem to help much at all, and that’s something Jose Mourinho will be heavily aware of as he leads United into this new campaign.
Thankfully, the Portuguese has pretty much a full quota of players to call on for next weekend’s Premier League curtain-raiser away at Bournemouth. Neither Chris Smalling or Timothy Fosu-Mensah were present for United’s last two pre-season fixtures, against Galatasaray in Gothenburg and Everton at Old Trafford, but Mourinho has confirmed to ManUtd.com that both defenders are fit and ready for selection for Sunday’s Community Shield meeting with Leicester City.
“They are fine now,” Mourinho told the club’s official site after his press confersense on Friday. “They have recovered and they are training with the group as normal, so they are fine. Everybody needs minutes – that is the reality. We had so little time to play and Smalling is a player who has not even played one minute, but it is a little bit the same for everyone.”
Given that United’s defence is less than solidified, the return of Smalling and Fosu-Mensah is a big boost. Smalling was, for the most part, United’s best defender part season, despite his form suffering something of a blip in the second half of the season and the embarrassing red card that he picked up against Crystal Palace in May’s FA Cup final. Smalling will be suspended for the Bournemouth game as a result, so the Community Shield will be Mourinho’s first chance to give the centre back some football having trained but not played since returning to pre-season training last month.
Fosu-Mensah was subject to some worrying rumours last week which suggested that Mourinho may have deemed the young Dutchman surplus to requirements, so it’s certainly encouraging to hear that his return is imminent. The versatile player impressed on several occasions with his displays at centre back and on the right side of defence, and possesses great power, strength and pace.
With the identity of United’s defence this season far from certain, the return of two of the club’s most capable defenders will surely help.