Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has been offered hope he could yet have a future under Jose Mourinho after his return to first-team training was described as a "positive" for the club. The World Cup winner has not played at all this season, and though he is ineligible for the upcoming Europa League clash with Fenerbahce, Mourinho included him in preparations for the game in Turkey.
The former Germany international moved to the 20-time English league champions last summer, but after an injury-ravaged first campaign under Louis van Gaal has been deemed surplus to requirement. Schweinsteiger had been forced to train either alone or with the club's youth side in order to maintain his fitness and his return to the senior side represented a major surprise, despite the club's injury problems.
Injuries to Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling left United short in training ahead of their fourth Europa League group match, meaning Schweinsteiger was enlisted to make up the numbers. Nevertheless, Mourinho foresees a positive role for the former Bayern Munich man – who remains eligible for domestic fixtures despite not being included in the club's European squad.
"Schweinsteiger is back," Mourinho told reporters, according to the Manchester Evening News. "We made that decision last Thursday. We phoned him last Friday so he could join the team last Monday. It was a decision based on fact that we are in a period of the season where it's really difficult with everybody together. The problem of tactical work that I like to do with 21 players max, to have 23/24 at a time doesn't happen.
"Looking at Bastian and the way he was working professionally every day with the fitness coach, we think it's a professional decision to bring him back to the team. We will be much better prepared, much better conditions, in case his future decision is to leave the club. In this moment we have no problems in midfield like we do in defence. If we do have problems in midfield, he's one option for us. It's a decision that can be positive for the group."
Phil Jones could make his first appearance since January after being included in United's 21-man squad for the game at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Istanbul. The England defender has been nursing ankle and knee injuries either side of pre-season and is yet to play since Mourinho was appointed as Van Gaal's successor. But with United beset with a defensive injury crisis he could be included for the squad.
"I almost don't remember when Phil Jones had a good run of matches for United," the Portuguese coach added. "He's having a difficult relationship with the injuries. But he worked hard to recover – he's training with the team for more than a week now. We are in a difficult situation because we lost three defenders in a week.
On the condition of Valencia, who underwent surgery on a hand injury suffered in the EFL Cup win over Manchester City, Mourinho added: "An important fracture in his arm and an important surgery too. He's going to be out for a while but the main thing is that even when Antonio was playing very well, we were preparing Darmian and Darmian was having matches."