When it rains, it pours. Yesterday, reports emerged that Marouane Fellaini had picked up an injury at the weekend against Southampton and would not be traveling to Russia for Manchester United’s Champions League clash against CSKA Moscow. In his press conference today, José Mourinho confirmed those reports, and piled on some more bad news for good measure.
Not only is Fellaini injured, but Michael Carrick and Phil Jones are out as well.
“I won't have Fellaini, I won't have Pogba, we won't have Carrick, so all three midfield players that we lose for this match. So there are not many solutions, but we try not to focus on individual battles or in specific areas on the pitch. We try to focus on the globality [team as a whole] and we are going to have a team with quality, with balance, to try to win the match which is our objective.”
With Nemanja Matić also apparently not 100% fit, and Paul Pogba obviously still out of action, that leaves Ander Herrera as United’s only fit senior central midfielder. After starting the season with arguably greater midfield depth than has been seen at the club in nearly a decade, the center of the pitch for United looks like it will be held together with putty and silly string for at least the next two games.
Chris Smalling is likely to deputize for Jones in the back line on Wednesday, but if Mourinho had any intention of playing three in the midfield - or if Matić is not risked - some square pegs will be going into round holes. The recently injured and so far unseen this year Axel Tuanzebe can do a job in midfield. As can the recently praised and are-we-sure-he’s-any-good Victor Lindelöf. Whatever the solution, an awkward away fixture has just become that much trickier.