Manchester United will be favorites for the 4th round of the FA Cup but it will be no push over as the loss vs Bristol Rovers showed as United will face high flying Championship side Derby County.
Even with the long injury list, Mourinho should have enough resources to get to the next stage of the competition which at this point has decent stakes given its winner will automatically qualify for the UEFA Europa League.
Sure, United are in the top 3 but it is always good to have a back-up plan and why not, an extra trophy added to the trophy case.
Mourinho’s side currently has 6 unavailable players as follows:
• Romelu Lukaku – Head injury – gave fans quite a scare after being pulled out the pitch with an oxygen mask on. Things look ok for the Belgian tank who is expected to return on the middle of January.
• Eric Bailly – Ankle injury – out since November, Bailly will still be sidelined for the next 2 months or so.
• Antonio Valencia – Hamstring Injury – no return date scheduled for the right-back who is at this point the most important absentee on Mourinho’s list – mostly because there’s no right back to play in his place – not on the same level at least.
• Michael Carrick – Heart condition – there’s no update regarding his return date. Hopefully we will get to see him play a couple of games by the end of the season.
• Marouane Fellaini – Knee injury – is expected to return in February if the recovery plan works as expected.
• Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Knee injury – bad luck for the Swedish superstar who came back from a cruciate ligament injury just to pick up another knee problem. At best, Zlatan will return in February
Looking at the list, you might say that none of these guys would have been sent on the pitch against Derby given Mourinho’s rotation system. Hopefully the next injury update will come with a shorter number of players.
On the other hand, Derby County will give it their best to replicate what Bristol did in the EFL Cup against United and will have to take a serious approach no matter who is in their line up as Mourinho will be facing Gary Rowett’s strongest team you would think as Derby will be in search of what would be a major upset.