Jose Mourinho sends a message to Manchester United’s fringe players

by Leo Nieboer

Jose Mourinho has insisted that several fringe players will play an important part over the next month as Manchester United begin their Champions League and League Cup campaign after the international break.

The Portuguese has only used 15 players in total during Man United’s perfect start to their Premier League campaign, making only one change from his starting XI in the form of Anthony Martial replacing Marcus Rashford against Leicester City.

Regular first team members like Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling, Matteo Darmian, alongside new signing Victor Lindelof, have hardly had a look in so far.

But Mourinho, writing in his programme notes ahead of United’s 2-0 win over Leicester City, made it clear that fringe players would receive a chance to impress over the next month.

“I will be very happy when the Champions League and League Cup start,” Mourinho said. “Because then I’ll have more games and more opportunities to give all of my players the game time they deserve.

“As ever, all the boys are working hard. It might be easy for people to praise the ones who have done so well in the opening games of the season, but I prefer to praise the amazing professionals who are not playing at the moment.

“They might not have played the minutes they would have liked so far, but they are all being very patient and waiting for their opportunity to become important for the team.

“Last season showed how much we will need to use the whole squad during the course of the campaign, and while I can only pick 11 players to start each game, the boys all know they will get chances and I know I can count on any of them whenever selected.”

“I have to say Smalling is in very good conditions and I have also to say Victor is improving every day.  So, as you know, against Basel Jones and Eric are both suspended, so against Basel we will play Victor and Smalling and no problem at all.

“The squad is good and the mentality of the players is very good too.”

The first three games ahead of the universally unwanted international break have always had a theatrical kind of quality: a chance for managers to field their big guns as a preface for when the season really kicks into top gear in September.

And Mourinho’s men have been the standout performers in the Premier League so far, but how will others fare when they come in?

Smalling, Lindelof, Herrera, Darmian, Jesse Lingard and Marouane Fellaini will all have chances to impress as Mourinho begins to balance his side’s domestic campaign with their travails in Europe. Ashley Young and Luke Shaw will soon return to first team action and add further depth to the squad, whilst the likes of Andreas Pereira and Scott McTominay could receive chances to impress against Burton Albion in the League Cup.

No side can win trophies with just 11 players. Everybody needs to play a part, and Mourinho can take immense confidence from the strength in depth at his disposal.

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