In Depth

Man Utd injury news: Ibrahimovic flies to US for surgery

Striker will not be offered a new deal at Old Trafford as he faces nine months on the sidelines after rupturing knee ligaments

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will undergo surgery on his knee in the US this week amid fears that his career is in jeopardy and that he will leave Manchester United at the end of the season.

The 35-year-old Swede was injured in the final minute of United's Europa League quarter-final tie with Anderlecht when he landed awkwardly tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that is likely to rule him out for nine months.

The striker, who is out of contract at Old Trafford at the end of the season, vowed to "come back even stronger" in a post on Instagram. "One thing is for sure, I decide when its time to stop and nothing else," he wrote. "Giving up is not an option. See you soon."

However, the extent of the injury is still not known. "As well as tearing his ACL, there are concerns that Ibrahimovic has suffered further ligament and cartilage damage in the joint, although that may not become clear until he has the operation," reports the Daily Mail, which adds that the operation will be carried out by Pittsburgh-based surgeon Dr Freddie Fu.

His chances of remaining at Old Trafford look bleak, says the Daily Express. "He is set to miss nine months of action and is likely to leave Manchester United this summer.

"His contract expires but United did want him to sign a one-year extension after scoring 28 goals since joining from PSG. That would be a extraordinary move now and he is likely to move on."

United will not want to continue paying Ibrahimovic's wages, believed to be £260,000-a-week if he will miss most of the season. But that could be good news for his Major League Soccer suitors in the US, says The Guardian.  

"Initial suggestions are that Los Angeles FC and the LA Galaxy are still interested in the 35-year-old," says the paper. "In fact, it has been raised that Ibrahimovic's projected recovery date of January 2018 might give MLS an advantage in luring him away from the Premier League."

The US league begins in March, so Ibrahimovic could return in time for the start of the 2018 campaign.

United will also be without defender Marcos Rojo, who sustained knee ligament damage in the match against Anderlecht and will also need an operation. His absence leaves manager Jose Mourinho with problems at the back, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones both sidelined.

Man Utd injury news: Phil Jones 'out for a month' after Smalling clash

22 March

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will be praying the curse of England duty does not strike twice after Marcus Rashford was tipped to start against Germany and Phil Jones suffered a suspected broken toe in a training ground collision with Old Trafford team-mate Chris Smalling.

Jones is set for a month on the sidelines – just as United contemplate nine games in 30 days in April.

With that kind of schedule, Mourinho can ill afford injuries to any of his other England players - Rashford, Smalling, Luke Shaw and Jesse Lingard - even though none have been regular starters this season.

"Jones, whose propensity for banging into opponents has previously split open Wayne Rooney's head and recently caused the same player a knee injury, suffered a suspected broken toe and has been sent for x-rays to determine how long he will be missing," reports The Guardian.

"The setback is potentially worse for United than England bearing in mind the congested fixture schedule at Old Trafford."

Mourinho has cut a miserable figure at times this season and losing Jones, who has been dogged by injuries but has been a first-team regular when fit, will not improve his mood.

He "was already complaining about his team being at breaking point owing to the fixture pile up and injury to one of his key defenders is likely to hamper their quest for the Europa League and a place in the top four", says International Business Times.

Man Utd injury news: Mkhitaryan and Smalling back for Christmas

13 December

Manchester United's man of the moment Henrikh Mkhitaryan will only miss the next two games despite being carried off after scoring the winner against Spurs at Old Trafford on Sunday.

But while manager Jose Mourinho has admitted he was "a bit scared" to see the in-form Armenian taken from the pitch on a stretcher he now says that he's expected to be back for the hectic Christmas schedule.

"Tests have confirmed that the forward should miss only two games – Wednesday's visit to Crystal Palace and the weekend trip to West Bromwich Albion," says the Daily Telegraph. "Although Mourinho would not give Wayne Rooney any encouragement in his hopes of starting just his second league game in three months."

Rooney has only started one game for United in three months but when asked about who would replace Mkhitaryan, Mourinho made it clear he had plenty of options. "Rooney, Rashford, Lingard, Ashley Young, Memphis Depay – that's a position where we have lots of players," he said. "The problem is Mkhitaryan was playing so, so well, and now he's not there."

The return of Eric Bailly ahead of schedule after a knee injury has lent some solidity to the United defence. He and Phil Jones would now appear to be Mourinho's preferred centre-back pairing. But Chris Smalling could soon be challenging them for a place in the starting line-up and will be needed when Bailly heads to Africa for the Cup of Nations in January.

The England defender has been missing since October with a broken toe, but could be back soon, says Club Call. Smalling "has taken a big step forward over the last week and is now poised to receive the all-clear from United's medical staff", says the website, which adds that "the 27-year-old is hoping to get in some minutes before United's FA Cup third-round home tie against Reading on 7 January".

Man Utd injury news: Eric Bailly could be back in two weeks

30 November

After struggling in the Premier League, Manchester United have been given a timely boost with the return to training of defender Eric Bailly, five weeks after his knee ligament injury.

It was initially feared  the £30m defender, who arrived from Villarreal in the summer, would not return until next year, although last week, under-pressure manager Jose Mourinho said: "He is working hard and will be back before the end of the year, for sure."

That could prove to be a conservative estimate, says the Manchester Evening News, which claims "the 22-year-old's return to training suggests he could now even be back before Christmas".

Bailly may even be available for Spurs's visit to Old Trafford on 11 December, says the Daily Mirror.

However, the paper adds, United will lose him again after a month when he joins the Ivory Coast for the African Cup of Nations in January.

It now appears the defender could return ahead of Chris Smalling, who is reported to have a broken toe and has been criticised by Mourinho for being unwilling to play through the pain barrier, prompting speculation he is being frozen out at Old Trafford.

Meanwhile, veteran Michael Carrick, who missed the weekend's Premier League encounter with West Ham, "is expected to feature" when the two clubs meet again in the EFL Cup tonight, says the Daily Mail.

That means Bastian Schweinsteiger "could have to wait for his dramatic first-team comeback", despite being brought back into the squad at the weekend and looking set for a recall to the first XI after Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini were ruled out of the cup clash through suspension.

Man Utd injury news: Mourinho bites back in Smalling toe row

18 November

Wayne Rooney and Luke Shaw will be available for Manchester United when they take on Arsenal on Saturday, but mystery surrounds the fitness of Chris Smalling after Jose Mourinho reacted angrily to questions about the centre back's injury problems on Friday.

Mourinho appeared to criticise the player's commitment to the cause after United's win over Swansea two weeks ago. Smalling apparently told Mourinho he could not play in the game because he was in "pain", prompting the manager to tell reporters: "There is a difference between the brave, who want to play at any cost, and the ones for whom a little pain can make a difference."

It was subsequently claimed that Smalling had a broken toe and would be out for several weeks, although the story was then denied by United sources.

On Friday Mourinho "angrily refused to clarify" Smalling's situation, reports the Manchester Evening News, and instead attacked the media over their coverage of the story.

"You cannot ask [about Smalling] because you have your sources, you trust your sources, you believe in your sources, you write what your sources tell you and you did that for 15 days," said Mourinho. "So now you are not going to ask me to comment on your sources' information." 

"You wrote, you spoke, you comment, you criticise, so that's fine for me. I don't say a word about Chris Smalling. I don't say a word."

His comments about Smalling were in marked contrast to those about Luke Shaw, the other player who he appeared to criticise after the Swansea game. Shaw, who was not available for the England games, spent the international break training with United and Mourinho praised his efforts. While the very mention of Smalling appeared to "irk" Mourinho, Shaw "was praised by his manager and is available to play on Saturday", reports the Manchester Evening News.

Shaw had "worked well" in training said Mourinho. "He is ready to play, I don't have any problem with him.

"I'm not saying he plays or he doesn't play tomorrow, I'm saying that he is my player, he is a young player with potential."

Mourinho also dodged questions about Wayne Rooney, who has been in the spotlight over allegations of drinking while on England duty and has been battling a knee problem. However, when asked about the furore, the "United boss insisted the issue is England's to deal with and said his captain is ready to take on the Gunners", says Sky Sports.

Man Utd injury news: Why will Smalling miss Arsenal game?

17 November

Mourinho sweats on fitness of at least four players amid injury intrigue and will make changes in defence and attack this weekend

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will be sweating on the fitness of several key players in the build-up to the clash with Arsenal on Saturday, as he faces selection problems in defence, midfield and attack.

Picking up on reports earlier in the week, The Independent claims that United could be without seven players this weekend as "Jose Mourinho faces a mounting injury crisis at the club".

Two definite absentees are centre backs Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling. "The former is not expected back until at least Christmas after sustaining knee ligament damage during his side’s 4-0 defeat by Chelsea last month," says the paper, but there is more intrigue surrounding Smalling's absence, after Mourinho appeared to question his commitment to the cause.

"The true extent of [Smalling's] injury – an alleged broken toe – remains clouded in confusion," reports the Independent. "United have partially denied the reports and played down the severity of Smalling’s injury." However, he appears certain to miss the match at Old Trafford.

Luke Shaw, who was the other player whose ability to play through the pain barrier was questioned by Mourinho is also thought to be struggling. He is said to be suffering with problems in the leg that he broke in 2015. "The Englishman, who uploaded a video of himself working on his fitness over the weekend break, is likely to undergo more rigorous assessment on Thursday," says the Independent.

Antonio Valencia, broken arm, Marouane Fellaini, calf, and Wayne Rooney, knee, are the other players said to be doubtful through injury, while striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be suspended.

However, there is more positive news from Goal.com. It claims Valencia, Fellaini and Rooney are all expected to be fit and notes that Shaw has responded to Mourinho's criticism by "putting in extra sessions in order to be fit for the Gunners' visit".

Defender Daley Blind could also return for the match and team up with Phil Jones at the heart of the United defence.

Mourinho must also choose who to play up front in the absence of Ibrahimovic, and the Daily Mirror says that even though Rooney has apparently overcome a "minor knee injury" he will not return to the side.

"Marcus Rashford is understood to be boss Mourinho’s preferred replacement, which leaves captain Rooney facing the prospect of another game on the bench."

Man Utd injury news: Why Bailly could be out until February

26 October

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has plenty to contend with as he struggles to adapt to hotel life and tries to snap his team's run of bad form. Now he could be forced to make do without his key summer signing Eric Bailly until the end of February after the player picked up a knee injury during the 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Chelsea on Sunday.

The Ivory Coast defender damaged his knee ligament at Stamford Bridge and "is not expected to play again before Christmas", reports The Guardian.

The news is a blow for United as the £30m summer signing from Villarreal has started every league game under Mourinho. But that might not be the end of United's woes. The Daily Telegraph says that not only is the defender likely to miss United's next 13 games but Mourinho also "faces the prospect of losing the Ivory Coast defender for a further six weeks because of the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon in January and February, with a potential club-versus-country row on the horizon".

It puts United in a quandary. "It is hoped that Bailly may return a little earlier if his recovery goes fully to plan," says the Daily Mail, which might mean Bailly is available for the Christmas period.

But if he does return early and prove his fitness then he is "expected to go to the Africa Cup of Nations in January and United therefore face the prospect of being deprived of their best centre-back for much of the winter months".

Man Utd injury news: Shaw and Mkhitaryan fit for Liverpool

14 October

Jose Mourinho will have an almost full squad to choose from when Manchester United face Liverpool on Monday.

The United boss has confirmed that both Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are fit. They're also "in line to return at Anfield after Mourinho revealed they have returned to training", says the Manchester Evening News. "The United manager has also reported no fresh injury worries following the international break."

Phil Jones is now the only member of the first team squad who will not be available. He is still recovering from a knee injury.

Shaw's recovery from a groin strain has been hampered by illness, while Mkhitaryan has been out with a thigh strain. But both players appeared to have fallen foul of Mourinho before news of their injuries emerged.

"Shaw hasn’t featured for United since their 3-1 defeat to Watford on 18 September, after which Jose Mourinho publicly blamed the left-back for his part in the Hornets' second goal," says Metro. "Mkhitaryan, meanwhile, has not been seen in a United shirt since he was brought off at half-time in the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City at Old Trafford on 10 September."

Both players are vying for a recall on Monday night, but Talksport believes only Shaw will earn a place in the starting XI, with Armenian international Mkhitaryan left on the bench, alongside Wayne Rooney.

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