Injuries and fixture pile-up will reveal Man Utd squad plans
Mourinho insists he will not field under-strength teams as United hunt three trophies, so who will he play?
Manchester United eased into the last 16 of the Europa League with a routine 1-0 win over St Etienne on Wednesday night, but the main talking points were injuries and the fixture pile-up now facing Jose Mourinho.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored the only goal of the game in France, as United wrapped up a 4-0 aggregate win following their three-goal first leg victory. But he later limped off injured along with Michael Carrick. Both will miss the EFL Cup final against Southampton on Sunday.
Defender Eric Bailly is also set for a spell on the sidelines as he was red carded and will miss the first leg of the next round, the draw for which will be made tomorrow.
The loss of Carrick and in particular Mkhitaryan is a "big blow" for United ahead of the final, says The Times. "But the United manager feels that his chances of winning silverware are also being hindered by the FA and the BBC."
They announced last night that United's FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea will take place on Monday, 13 March – three days before the second leg of United's European tie, which could be as far afield as Russia, depending on the draw. Mourinho said he was "surprised" by the decision which was not in the "interests" of English football.
But every setback is also an opportunity for Mourinho and he used the news to take a sly dig at Manchester City by insisting that the TV schedule would not influence his team selection.
"Last season the then Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini faced a similar proposition when City travelled to Stamford Bridge in the fifth round on a Sunday before flying to Ukraine to take on Dynamo Kyiv on the Wednesday in the Champions League," explains The Guardian.
The City boss fielded a second string side, including several unheard-of youngsters, who were beaten 5-1.
But the sheer number of matches facing Mourinho as they battle on three fronts could mean he is forced to make changes. And that could serve to shed more light on his long-term plans, with the likes of Luke Shaw set to discover if they have any chance of ever breaking back into the first team on a regular basis.
Ahead of such considerations, the Daily Mail runs the rule over Mourinho's squad and claims that Shaw's prospects are "bleak" along with those of fellow full-back Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger and United's record goalscorer Wayne Rooney. The England captain clearly has no long-term future at Old Trafford even if he is allowed a Wembley swansong in place of Mkhitaryan on Sunday.
They are classed among the "frozen out" players, deemed surplus to requirements under Mourinho.