Manchester United’s mini-crisis at the heart of defence could see long-term injury absentee Phil Jones drafted back into the squad to face Leicester City on Saturday.
Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s first choice duo of Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane have both picked up injuries recently, with neither player fit enough to take on the Foxes.
Maguire has spent the last two games on the sidelines after picking up a calf problem during the 2nd half of the 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa.
Although the England man is thought to be stepping up his rehabilitation, there doesn’t appear to be any chance of him recovering in time for the weekend’s fixture.
Solskjaer’s defensive issues worsened with the news that a groin injury picked up on international duty will keep Varane out of the first XI for the next few weeks.
The latest blow couldn’t have come at a worse time for the under-pressure Norwegian, with potentially season-defining contests against Atalanta, Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester City on the horizon.
The Daily Star reports that the growing list of defensive casualties could, however, throw an unlikely career lifeline to the injury-ravaged Jones.
While Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly would appear to be the obvious replacements for this must-win match, The Star has referenced a statement on the official site that hints otherwise.
The statements says that, “Phil Jones and Marcus Rashford have both been training with the first-team over the international break following their long-term injuries and the duo could feature against Leicester in our 15:00 BST kick-off at the King Power Stadium on Saturday,”
It might be said that, beyond Lindelof and Bailly, the options at the Red Devils’ disposal are a starting to look a little threadbare.
Additionally, Solskjaer’s defence has started to seem a cause for concern even before the bad news regarding Maguire and Varane first emerged.
His first choice partnership is in its infancy and yet to find the same wavelength. And, going further back, the Norwegian’s sides have only managed one clean sheet since mid-April – against Premier League strugglers Wolves.
As for Jones, the 29-year-old hasn’t played a competitive game since January ’20, an absence that has seen him cruelly reduced to an internet meme in some quarters.
If the unlucky centre-back does make a surprise comeback this weekend, it’ll be straight in at the deep-end.
The likes of Harvey Barnes, Kelechi Iheanacho and, of course, the evergreen Jamie Vardy are a huge threat for any side on their day.