Content Mourinho enjoys luxury of injury-free Man United
ABS-CBN Sports on Jan 07, 2017 12:52 AM
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho waves to fans after the final whistle during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
JUSTIN PALMER, Associated Press
Jose Mourinho gleefully proclaimed something predecessor Louis van Gaal was unable to do when he was the Manchester United manager.
"There are zero injuries," Mourinho said on Friday. "Zero injuries! We have 27 players and zero injuries."
Mourinho confirmed that skipper Wayne Rooney will start on Saturday in the FA Cup third-round match against Championship visitor Reading, which was managed by former United defender Jaap Stam.
Rooney needs one goal to equal Bobby Charlton's record of 249 for United which has stood for more than 40 years.
A fully fit squad midway through the season was a luxury Van Gaal only dreamed of during his Old Trafford tenure, which began in 2014 and ended when he was fired days after their FA Cup final triumph last May.
Even in an era of large and expensive squads, such was the extent of United's injury crisis last season that Van Gaal was unable to call on 11 first-teamers at one point, and forced to blood youngsters and fringe players.
For one Premier League game, against Bournemouth in December 2015, the Dutchman handed debuts to two full-backs while completing his patched-up defense with the inexperienced Paddy McNair and midfielder Daley Blind.
By then, questions were already being asked about why United had so many injuries. Former assistant manager Mike Phelan, fired this week as manager of Hull City, claimed Van Gaal's fitness regime was to blame.
In contrast, Mourinho appears to be steering a happy United ship, although they remain outside the top four in sixth place, despite six successive league wins.
Reflecting on his first six months at the helm, Mourinho hailed his squad and the absence of the injuries that so blighted Van Gaal.
"During the season, we have never had big, big problems with that. We had the normal amount of injuries that happen all the time but, in this moment, we have zero. We have every player available apart from (Eric) Bailly, who is in the African Cup," he said.
"I like my players very, very much. Not just the players, but the combinations between the players as people. They are very good guys and I love to work with them."
United began the season by winning the Community Shield and its first three league games. Then came just one victory in its next seven, including a humiliating 4-0 drubbing at Mourinho's former club, Chelsea, which was the team to catch in the race for the title.
But since early November, United has been unbeaten in 13 consecutive games and on a roll.