It’s not that those whom he selects don’t put the effort in — the Portuguese speaks glowingly of the camaraderie between the players who are available for selection — it’s more that there are key players unavailable throughout the team, and he has little in reserve.
“It’s not just about them” he said of his injured players.
“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.”
Defenders Not Committing 100 per cent
He also added that he thinks players at the top level are less willing to put their bodies on the line then they were in the past, and he appears to think some of that applies to his absent defenders Phil Jones, and Chris Smalling.
The situation is getting so bad that Mourinho has suggested he could get his boots on for United’s next game.
When asked if Eric Bailly needed a rest after the Ivorian defender played all of United’s six games in May, Mourinho suggested an unexpected solution.
He was asked specifically about young defensive prospect Axel Tuanzebe who was on the bench against Manchester City, and whether he could step up to replace the Frenchman.
“In this moment he’s the only option we have,” said the United manager.
”Eric and Daley. They played absolutely amazing again. I will have to speak to them to see how they are and see how they feel.
“I’m also training hard in the gym so I can be an option also. Mourinho and Tuanzebe against Swansea.”
His joke is an attempt to make light of an injury crisis at the club which, in its most recent cruel twist, saw both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo pick up cruciate ligament injuries.
Rojo’s Absence a Blow
Rojo was becoming a regular on the left side of the defence, and bolstering this area of the back line in the summer has now become a necessity rather than an possibility.
Even with all his players fit Mourinho might still be unhappy with the quality of his options in the position.
Bailly, however, has made the right side of the defence his own. A tackle on Leroy Sane in the Manchester derby summed up his recent displays. It was perfectly timed — it had to be given it was in the penalty area — and it set the tone for his battle with Sane who seemed less inclined to run at him after that early intervention.
Tuanzebe is highly thought of in his age group, but it’s probably too soon for him to be trusted to come into the starting eleven and partner Bailly on a regular basis.
It’s one thing to put faith in an attacker such as Rashford, but Mourinho requires his centre backs to have a certain amount of tactical nous which only comes with experience.
One of Jones and Smalling could be kept as backup, but given the injury records of both this season United could look to cash in as they seek a top quality player for the left side.
Rojo could remain as backup in a number of positions, and given his injury there’s no chance he’ll be sold in the summer anyway.
Man United’s Summer Options in Defence
Former youth player, Michael Keane, has emerged as a transfer target for Manchester United. However, he’s another right sided defender and would have to compete for that spot unless Mourinho thinks he can adapt to the other side.
There have also been tentative transfer rumours linking them with Juventus centre back Leonardo Bonucci.
The Italian would be seen as the ideal signing for Mourinho in the position, but he’s likely to face a battle with other clubs for his signature, though given the amount they gave Juventus for Paul Pogba, they might not be averse to doing the same again.
The United manager believes any new players coming into the side will be joining a stronger group than the one he inherited last season.
“Mr Van Gaal left a good group of boys, with very good relations between them,” Mourinho said after the Manchester Derby.
“I think they missed happiness, they missed trust, they missed belief, they missed these extra bits that bring resilience, bring fight. They now have it.
“So the group, next July when we meet again for next season is a stronger group. To the new players, when they arrive, will find a group more ready to go for big things.”
This signalled his intent to add more quality to a squad which is already the most expensive ever assembled. The club will have to splash even more cash if they’re to find Mourinho a top class partner for Bailly.