The pair both picked up ‘long-term’ injuries whilst on international duty with England back in March and were recently predicted to return by ‘mid-May’.
However, following a knee ligament to Marcos Rojo, which leaves Man United with just one recognised defender, Mourinho has hinted towards rushing the pair back to full fitness.
And the Portuguese, speaking after the game, has urged Jones and Smalling to be brave and return to action ahead of schedule.
Jose: if Jones-Smalling have a "crazy mentality" like him they should play v City. But if they are "cautious" then won't push themselves…
— jamie jackson (@JamieJackson___) April 23, 2017
It is, of course, absurd to think that Daley Blind and Eric Bailly – the latter hasn’t missed a minute of action since the international break – can play the entirety of United’s run in over the next month.
Mourinho, in response, is asking for sacrifice – for Jones and Smalling to place the greater good above personal pain and potential further ramifications. Whether they can muster up the strength to speed up their recovery will not just define the next eight – or nine – games for United, but indeed their prospects at Old Trafford as well. Mourinho will not, I imagine, entertain the idea of placing faith in two players that, when called upon, shirked the challenge.