The Italian picked up widespread criticism for his display against Bristol City and came out of the game with a knock.
Smalling, as we all know too well, picked up a thigh or hamstring injury during the latter stages of Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Leicester City.
And Mourinho, speaking after the game, noted that the pair had picked up knocks ahead of the clash with Sean Dyche’s men.
“Darmian is also injured. We don’t have too many more options [at right-back] and Victor has experience to play in the position even at highest level, in the last Euros he was there for Sweden, so it’s not a new position for him,” he said.
“Yes, and I had the chance to speak with Ashley Young to tell him the way the team had to be in position because of Smalling’s difficulty, but I think a lack of maturity because I cannot stop the game to give a team-talk for the last two minutes.
“The players immediately have to adapt and read the game and they didn’t. We had childish decisions in front of goal, bad decisions. It was not about the dribbling and hitting the bar, it was not just about the cases with an open goal, it was easy decisions to make to counter-attack.”
Manchester United are already two further players down – to go with Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Eric Bailly – after the first of five games before the first weekend of 2018, and you can only imagine there are more to come.
This is a vital stage of Man United’s season. They have stumbled to its mid-way point with disappointing displays at Bristol and Leicester, and can now consider the title race to completely over.
They run the risk of sliding further into the mire, you feel. Mourinho’s job over the next couple of weeks will be to restore a sense of – in his own words – emotional balance.