Manchester United are set to be without two key players for the visit of Arsenal after the international break.
The club were already aware that they would be missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the Swede picked up a 5th yellow card of the season, but now they have an injury concern of their own.
According to Sky Sports, Chris Smalling has broken his toe in training and the initial prognosis for his injury is 4 weeks. This will come as a big blow to United who will already be without star summer signing Eric Bailly due to injury.
Jose Mourinho appeared to question the pain threshold of both Smalling and Luke Shaw after both didn’t play in the win at Swansea, he said there are players in his squad “for whom a little pain can make a difference”, adding you have to “go to the limit”. This is a questionable public approach to take with his players and it’s certainly not a sustainable one.
But let’s ignore that for a second. Let’s look at how the absentees will affect United on the day. They will come up against an Arsenal side that can be very devastating in attack, although they have been silenced on a few occasions this season. The Gunners do tend however to be most devastating away from home and the match is at Old Trafford. With no Smalling and Bailly United will probably want to give their makeshift defence some protection in midfield, and I’m sure the conservative Mourinho will want to as well.
He could play Paul Pogba as a number 10 which would allow two holding midfielders to protect the back four, these are likely to be Ander Herrera and Maraoune Fellaini, a duo often preferred to Morgan Schneiderlin by Mourinho.
In attack Mourinho has a few options for replacing Zlatan. He could opt for Rashford, a player that made the devastating difference in this fixture last year, or Rooney, a player that played brilliantly against Swansea on the left hand side. A wildcard option is Anthony Martial, who has had to settle for a fringe role under Mourinho so far, but is it his time to shine?
It’ll be interesting to see how Mourinho copes with these two key players unavailable, but he will hope that his good personal record against Arsenal and Manchester United’s great recent home record against the Gunners carries them through this one with a much-needed 3 points.