It wouldn’t be Manchester United if injury worries didn’t rear their ugly head at some point during the season. The list of potential absentees from Jose Mourinho’s squad for United’s next game against Arsenal on Saturday week isn’t lengthy, but it’s certainly getting longer in a fashion that fans of the club have become worryingly used to over the last few years.
The first notable exclusion from the side to face the Gunners is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is definitely out having picked up a fifth booking of the season against Swansea City on Sunday. His suspension could hardly have come at a worse time, given that the Swede broke his scoring drought with a brace in South Wales this past weekend, and his physical presence would surely have given Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi plenty of problems. That leaves Mourinho with a decision to make regarding who starts up front, with Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford all available.
Eric Bailly’s absence after picking up an injury in United’s 4-0 defeat at Chelsea last month was a big blow, given that the Ivorian has been arguably the club’s best central defender this season. His physical presence and ability have made a big difference to United’s back four, and with Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones less-than desirable as replacements, his return to the side cannot come soon enough.
At least Antonio Valencia, who has enjoyed something of a rebirth under Mourinho has a direct replacement of decent quality having vacated the right back slot whilst he recovers from injury. Matteo Darmian has performed ably in the role, but his presence at United beyond January’s transfer window is less-than certain if reports in Italy linking him with a return to his home country are true.
Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw, both of whom pulled out of United’s matchday squad for Swansea have also pulled out of Gareth Southgate’s England squad, throwing their participation for the Arsenal game into doubt. According to a report in The Telegraph, both have been playing with painkilling injections at points this season, and Mourinho’s comments about needing his players to play through discomfort after the game will not have gone down well with the former Fulham and Southampton defenders. Either way, both should feature if fit and available for the Arsenal game, with Shaw still easing his way back into the side after last September’s horrific double leg break at PSV Eindhoven and Smalling more-than capable in his role at centre back.