Manchester United will be without a trio of players for their upcoming Europa League last-32 first-leg tie, Jose Mourinho has confirmed. Captain Wayne Rooney, veteran midfielder Michael Carrick and injury-plagued defender Phil Jones will all be absent on Thursday night (16 February) as the FA Cup holders entertain AS Saint-Etienne at Old Trafford.
Jones is still recovering from the hamstring problem suffered during a goalless home draw with Hull City a fortnight ago that forced his early substitution and led to the 24-year-old missing subsequent victories over Leicester City and Watford. Rooney and Carrick, meanwhile, were both absent from training on Wednesday morning and neither will be risked against the Ligue 1 outfit.
"Wayne and Michael I don't want to say injuries because I don't think we are speaking about injuries," Mourinho told reporters at his pre-match press conference. "We are speaking about little problems and protection for these problems, so they are out tomorrow."
Record club goalscorer Rooney, who appeared in five of United's six Europa League group stage matches, was an unused substitute at Watford after being left out of the squad for the trip to the King Power Stadium due to illness. Carrick started back-to-back clashes with Hull but was left on the bench for each of the last two matches.
While that trio will definitely play no part, Mourinho revealed that Marcos Rojo, shifted to left-back on his last outing, is now back in contention after being replaced at half-time against Leicester with a knock. However, he is likely to begin as a substitute with the manager confirming that he intends to keep faith in the same back four.
"My team is playing well and I'm going to stick with [Antonio] Valencia, [Eric] Bailly, [Chris] Smalling and [Daley] Blind," he added.
Explaining the continued exclusion of Luke Shaw, who has not played a Premier League game since October and last featured in January's cup drubbing of Wigan Athletic, Mourinho said: "He's not playing tomorrow because my team is playing well and I'm happy with my back four and I'm going to repeat: Valencia, Bailly, Smalling and Daley Blind."
Speaking on the out-of-favour left-back earlier this week, Mourinho insisted that he would have to "work and wait" for his chance. He also explained that it was Matteo Darmian's versatility that saw him favoured over Shaw as an extra defensive bench option against Watford.
"The only thing I can say is that Luke is working well," he reiterated. "He doesn't have any problem and he is working well. He is fighting hard. There is no problem with him. He is fighting hard."