Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho insists Chris Smalling and Phil Jones will have a part to play at the club next season despite him being unhappy with their “cautious” approach to injuries.
After Sunday’s win at Burnley, the Portuguese urged his defensive duo to “be brave” and take a risk with both having missed the last seven matches, especially with Marcos Rojo out long term with with knee ligament damage.
However, neither will be available for the derby against Manchester City at the Etihad – with midfielder Paul Pogba also now absent with injury – much to Mourinho’s frustration.
Despite that, the United boss is not ready to cut his losses on the pair just yet.
Asked whether they would have a chance under him next season Mourinho said: “Of course they have. I hope this season.
“It’s not just about them. It’s about the philosophy and mentality around them. Cautious. Cautious. Cautious. Just a cautious approach.
“It’s a profile, it’s the philosophy of work. Just that.”
When quizzed as to whether he thought players were less inclined to put their bodies on the line nowadays, he added: “Professional football at a high level? Yeah.”
Pogba’s absence with a muscular injury only adds to an injury list which includes Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Rojo (both knee), Smalling (knee), Jones (foot) and Juan Mata (groin).
Mourinho believes the situation has helped galvanise the spirit among the players he does have at his disposal.
“Yeah, I think so. I think the boys that are available have a great feeling.
“They know that they are important, that they can be important, (thinking) ‘Let’s follow the example of Wayne (Rooney) and (Anthony) Martial, they come to a game that we need really to win and they gave more than expected (both scoring against Burnley) and Wayne I didn’t think was possible to go for 90 minutes and he did.
“I think the fact that we are fighting for important things still is a good motivation to keep people together, to make people make an extra effort.
“Wednesday’s training session started at 3pm: I was here at 10:30am and when I arrived some players were already here, taking care of little details and taking care of their recovery. That is motivation.
“I think maybe opponents they look at us with different eyes because we don’t have Zlatan and Paul and Marcos and Mata and Jones and Smalling.
“Maybe they look at us with different eyes but I think they are not stupid, they are not naive, and they know that we are going to give them a fight.”