Injured quartet nearing first-team return
Manchester United go into the upcoming international break eight points behind league leaders and arch-rivals Manchester City, having succumbed to a 1-0 defeat away to Chelsea on Sunday. Jose Mourinho’s side have suffered a dip in form in recent weeks, suffering a shock loss at the hands of newly-promoted Huddersfield Town and playing out a drab goalless draw at Anfield against rivals Liverpool. The Portuguese manager has tried to avoid publicly blaming his side’s performances on the number of key players sidelined by injuries, although he has made it clear that the absence of the likes of Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini has limited his options in midfield. The latter made his return to the United fold during the defeat at Stamford Bridge, and Mourinho told the club’s in-house television channel that Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo are all edging closer to full fitness and are expected to return sometime next month.
“They have to work every day but they are in a good position now,” the United boss told MUTV. “Pogba, Ibrahimovic, Rojo, Fellaini. They are in good positions so I think we can go into this part of the season, the Christmas period, and after, in a strong position.”
Mourinho will be hoping that his quartet of injured stars will be able to boost United’s numbers over the hectic Christmas period and rediscover the early-season form that suggested they could win the league title for the first time since 2013.
Martial looking for extended run in starting XI
One player who is looking for more game-time is Frenchman Anthony Martial, with United’s number 11 stating his desire to be included in the starting XI on a more regular basis. The 21-year-old has made an eye-catching start to the campaign, scoring six times from his 16 appearances in all competitions, despite playing the entire 90 minutes just once so far, against Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup.
“It’s easier to start the game,” Martial reportedly told SFR Sport, according to the Daily Mail. “When you come off the bench, the other players are warmed up, they’re totally in the game, and you have to get into it straight away. I prefer to start the game, I have more time to get myself into the game. I have faith in my qualities, and I think the manager has confidence in me, too, so it’s up to me to continue putting in good performances, and if I do that, I think I’ll play a bit more.”
De Gea to Real Madrid rumours resurface
Even though the transfer window is still under two months away, that has not put at an end to the regular David de Gea exit rumours, with Don Balon reporting that Mourinho is willing to part ways with his number one shot-stopper, as long as he gets centre-back Rapheal Varane, plus cash, in return. Only a faulty fax machine stopped the Spain international from making his much-anticipated move to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in 2015 and the Spanish giants have not given up hope of landing their man. Whilst de Gea has once again been in scintillating form for United this season, keeping eight clean sheets from his 11 league matches, Mourinho is reportedly prepared to sanction his return to the Spanish capital. The 27-year-old’s departure would come as a significant blow to United, who have seen the shot-stopper develop into arguably the world’s best goalkeeper since joining from Atletico Madrid in 2011.
Luke Shaw linked with January United exit
Another player to be linked with the Old Trafford exit door is left-back Luke Shaw, with Turkish outfit Fenerbahce lining up a January move for the defender. The 22-year-old’s United career has been stalled considerably since joining from Southampton in a £27 million deal back in 2014, failing to win over managers Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. Shaw saw his 2016/17 campaign cut short back in April when he damaged a ligament in his foot and has since found his path to the first-team blocked by the likes of Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian and more recently, Ashley Young. The England international has made just two appearances this season, with both coming in the Carabao Cup, and whilst his potential departure would come as a huge disappointment considering his undoubted potential, it would hardly come as a surprise.