Jones, Smalling Under Threat
Manchester United could sell both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling this summer if reports are to be believed. The claim comes on the back of a poor performance from the central defensive duo as United were beaten 1-0 by Newcastle United on Sunday.
Smalling’s place in the squad is under particular threat from any return for Eric Bailly. The Ivory Coast international is expected to return to action next month having picked up an ankle injury while on international duty in November.
Jones’s place in the squad is less under threat. If Mourinho is to start axing some of his centre-backs he will only do so if he has a replacement lined up for each.
The Daily Mirror claims Jose Mourinho has been told to spend big and to sort out his defence. Rivals Manchester City and Liverpool splashed the cash in the January transfer window with City spending £57million on Aymeric Laporte while Liverpool spent £75million on the transfer of Virgil van Dijk. The Mirror claims Mourinho has told United’s chiefs they must spend big on a defender in the summer.
Certainly Mourinho’s spending plans have moved further back on the pitch following the purchase last month of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal. That removed one of his summer signings out of the equation.
United were linked at the weekend with Leicester City’s Harry Maguire despite the fact that he only moved to the Foxes from Hull City last summer.
There is also an ongoing interest in Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane. But while the Mirror believes United could take advantage of what it describes as ‘turmoil’ at the Bernabeu the chances of Real allowing the France international to leave this summer are slim. Varane is also unlikely to be keen to make the move away from the La Liga side.
Meanwhile, Mourinho has Marcos Rojo and Victor Lindelof to turn to for this weekend’s FA Cup Fifth Round clash with Huddersfield Town should he drop Jones and/or Smalling.
Mourinho’s misgivings with the Manchester United defence were first highlighted as long ago as last October when it was claimed the United boss ‘doesn’t trust’ three of his central defenders: Jones, Smalling and Lindelof.
Certainly the Swede has also failed to impress with just 10 Premier League appearances so far this season three of which have come off the bench.