Football: Jose shuns Lindelof, hails 'solid' Jones, Rojo

LONDON • Manchester United have opted against making a move for Benfica defender Victor Lindelof after Jose Mourinho decided he is satisfied with his defensive options despite the prospect of losing Eric Bailly for up to six weeks due to the Africa Cup of Nations.

Negotiations with the Portuguese champions over Lindelof had been on for weeks and reports in Portugal said a deal worth more than £30 million (S$53.3 million) was close to being agreed.

United were keen to purchase the 22-year-old to add depth to their squad.

But Mourinho's side have now won five games in a row - while conceding only two goals - and the Portuguese has decided to stick with the central defenders he already has at his disposal.

Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo have struck up a solid partnership and Mourinho can also count on Bailly, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind.

Smalling is out injured while Bailly has just returned to training after picking up a knock at Crystal Palace on Dec 14.

When the Ivory Coast defender goes to the Africa Cup of Nations next month, the manager plans to use Smalling as cover.

Mourinho recently hailed the form of Jones, who has now played 10 consecutive games for United without getting injured.

"Sometimes defenders now think the most important ability is to build from the back," Mourinho said.

"It's not. The most important thing is to defend and that's what I like about Phil Jones."

Mourinho added that the media should give his two current centre-backs more credit.

He said: "Rojo was also having lots of injuries. He is also (injury) free. In a period without Bailly and Smalling, where people could be scared, they stepped up. Really solid. I am happy for them."

United, who are sixth in the Premier League, host Middlesbrough tomorrow.

THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2016, with the headline 'Jose shuns Lindelof, hails 'solid' Jones, Rojo'. Print Edition | Subscribe