Wayne Rooney has emerged as an injury doubt for Manchester United's Europa League clash against Zorya Luhansk. The England captain almost certainly would have started the Group A tie at Old Trafford after finally being dropped for last weekend's 4-1 rout of defending Premier League champions Leicester City following widespread criticism for a poor spell of form.
And while Rooney is in the squad for Thursday night's match against little-known Ukrainian opposition, a back injury prevented him from training yesterday and Mourinho faces a late decision over whether to risk his skipper from the outset or else elect to keep him on the bench and shield him from the further backlash that another subpar outing might bring. United, who are searching for a third consecutive win in all competitions – after recovering from three defeats in eight days – host struggling Stoke City on Sunday in their last fixture before the international break.
"I was completely convinced of playing him [Rooney] tomorrow," the manager was quoted as saying by The Mirror at his pre-match press conference.
"I'm not sure if I do that because with the situation that you create to him I think he really can't afford to have a performance that is not really good and I am here to protect him and have to analyse the best thing for him. If he is not totally ready for it, I will discuss that with the medical staff."
Anthony Martial is back in contention for United after an ankle contusion sidelined him for that impressive win over Leicester while he was already recovering from concussion. The news comes in light of summer signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who scored four goals in three matches against Zorya – during his impressive three-year spell with Shakhtar Donetsk between 2010-13 – not featuring despite joining in with training this morning. The 27-year-old sustained a thigh problem on international duty with Armenia against the Czech Republic last month and further aggravated the issue during the first half of the Manchester derby defeat to City.
Mourinho also revealed that Luke Shaw, singled out for criticism following a 3-1 defeat at Watford, will miss out after being sent home with an illness. The left-back also missed the wins over Northampton Town and Leicester after scan results revealed a slight tear to his groin.
"He's ill – temperature, fever, bad throat. He arrived this morning and immediately the doctor sent him home because one player like this in the middle of the other ones can affect others so he went home."
It was generally thought that talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who turns 35 next week, would be a bit-part player in Europe's secondary club competition in a bid to preserve his fitness for more important domestic matters. He was utilised as a second-half substitute in the disappointing 1-0 loss to Feyenoord a fortnight ago, although Mourinho confirmed that the Swede would start against both Zorya and Stoke despite recent reports suggesting that he had travelled to Milan after being granted a short break. Phil Jones remains sidelined with a knee injury, however.