Manchester – Jose Mourinho will go into Manchester United’s holiday programme without the experience of Antonio Valencia, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick as his squad battles fatigue following a midweek League Cup loss to Bristol City.
United, kicking off the congested festive fixtures with a visit to Leicester City, will also be without central defender Eric Bailly, who underwent surgery on an ankle problem on Friday and is out for two to three months.
The club had hoped the other three injury victims might be able to play some role in a period that sees United face five games in 14 days.
Valencia’s hamstring injury has proved more problematic than initially thought while Fellaini has been struggling with a knee injury sustained on international duty with Belgium.
Club captain Carrick will also be missed as he struggles to regain match fitness following a minor heart procedure earlier this season.
But the short-term fitness problems have been compounded by the club’s travel woes after Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final shock at Bristol City.
The team’s private plane was grounded by fog and United were forced to take a bus back to Manchester, and did not arrive until 05:00 GMT the next morning.
Even players who had been on the bench at Ashton Gate, such as Juan Mata and Chris Smalling, were affected by the lengthy journey time and sleep disruption.
“Of course, for the game at Bristol we changed a lot of the players, so we managed to give a rest to many of them and especially to the lucky ones that did not travel,” said Mourinho.
“Because the ones that did travel, even some who did not play, arrived back in Manchester close to 5:00 am. People like Mata or Smalling, who were on the bench, had to travel back.”
Mourinho said the defeat at Bristol would have no direct bearing on whether fringe players such as Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian and Henrikh Mkhitaryan would be allowed to leave the club in the January window.
“No. I don’t make decisions based on only one game or one feeling or one night, not at all,” said the United boss.
“I could be critical with my players but they did enough to win, they lost when they were the only team people believed could win. So we move on and we move on quickly because we have another match.”
Second-placed United reach the halfway stage of the Premier League season against Leicester on Saturday.
Although Mourinho was uncommunicative when asked to analyse the opening half to the campaign, he did point to the fact that his side had been difficult to beat, with all six of their losses across all competitions being by a solitary goal.
“The expectation is to go to every match and try to win, which is what we do and the matches we lost we fought until the last second, the matches we lost if I’m not wrong 2-1, 2-1, 1-0, so we really manage to fight in every match to try the best result,” said Mourinho.