Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Eric Bailly and Phil Jones will return to the starting XI for Manchester United’s clash with Everton on Sunday after missing the 3-0 win over FC Basel through suspension.
Bailly has now served the entirety of his three game man for lashing out at John Guidetti back in May, while Jones will be available for selection in Europe after missing two games for verbally abusing a UEFA doping official.
Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling started at the back against the Swiss champions and, aside from the occasional misplaced pass, looked largely untroubled as Man United cruised to a comfortable win in the end.
But Mourinho has confirmed that his first choice centre back pairing will return to the side for Sunday’s game against Everton.
“They [Smalling and Lindelof] train really hard,” he said. “They train together always in the same team because I knew they had to play this match together.”
“If you want to anticipate the next weekend I probably play Bailly and Jones because today they didn’t play, because they are fresh, because it makes sense for them to play again, but then two days after we have a League Cup match, so Victor and Smalling again.
“So we need this and in the Premier League and the Champions League I have to choose the players in relation to the quality. When I know I’m going to face one of these defensive walls Victor is probably the best to come with the ball, to attack spaces in midfield, to fight people in between the lines.
“So what I want is to have the players available and sometimes they are not playing, but for me as a manager it’s important.”
The 54-year-old used two completely different back fours for clashes with Stoke and Basel, but one common element has emerged from United’s defensive displays: a propensity for making life more uncomfortable than it needs to be.
Ever since being taken for a ride by Isco in the UEFA Super Cup, United haven’t looked particularly ruffled by any forward line. Nobody has really opened them up. But the four aforementioned centre backs have, at times, done exactly that for opponents over the past week with unnecessary individual errors and Mourinho will be fully aware that, when presented with quality opponents, this will haunt them.