There have been several positive aspects to Jose Mourinho’s time in charge of Manchester United so far. For the most part, United appear to be a side with more confidence, willing to work harder without losing themselves every time a setback befalls them. The last-gasp victory over Hull City several weeks ago suggests that Mourinho has imparted more of a sense of resolve in his team than Louis Van Gaal was able to manage, which is hugely welcome.
There’s also the fact that United don’t appear to be dealing with anything like the same number of injuries that they used to be hampered by under the Dutchman’s leadership. Both seasons that Van Gaal was in charge, United frequently needed to call upon the club’s academy and reserve players in order to fill in the gaps left by senior players unable to stay fit or becoming consistently injured, something we haven’t seen much of under his predecessor.
Not only that, but United are arguably better equipped to deal with injuries should they occur. The current list of potential absentees for Sunday’s game with Stoke City looks particularly harmless, for the most part. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has struggled to adapt to life in England since his move from Borrusia Dortmund, failing to find either form or fitness but United haven’t exactly struggled in his absence. Much has been expected from the Armenian but so far, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford have all spent time on the right-hand side of attack, and coped fairly well.
Phil Jones’ absence has barely been felt at all, thanks to the start that Eric Bailly has made to life at United since his summer move from Villareal. He’s partnered up with both Chris Smalling and Daley Blind at centre back this season, and has looked strong, committed and driven; exactly what United fans wish to see. As such, Jones hasn’t been missed at all, and faces an almighty task to work his way back into the starting XI once he regains fitness.
Blind has helped to make the absence of Luke Shaw, who was sent home from training in midweek with a virus, less pronounced, too. The Dutchman was exceptional against Leicester City last weekend, providing the corners for three of United’s four goals and arguably made up for the loss of Shaw whilst single-handedly providing the best performance in that position all season.
If these three players miss out on Sunday, United are well equipped to deal with it, which isn’t something that could be said about the last few seasons at Old Trafford.