Injuries pile up just as gloom over United lifts

Juan Mata's goal made the difference in United's 1-0 win over a reserve City side in the League Cup in midweek and he is optimistic things will improve further.
Juan Mata's goal made the difference in United's 1-0 win over a reserve City side in the League Cup in midweek and he is optimistic things will improve further.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Jose Mourinho's mood was a little brighter on Wednesday after a 1-0 League Cup victory over Manchester City, but there is still much work to be done in order to get his season back on track.

The Manchester United manager issued a public apology to the club's supporters after an embarrassing 4-0 defeat by Chelsea last Sunday, which left his team seventh in the Premier League.

However, despite winning only one of their last six league matches, United are just six points behind joint leaders City (20 points) as they go into today's home match against Burnley.

There is plenty of time to close the gap, and midfielder Juan Mata is optimistic that an improvement in form is imminent.

"After a defeat, everyone is going to speak badly about the team, about the manager. But we, as a group, need to stay strong and believe we can do great things together," said the Spaniard.

The concern for Mourinho is that injury problems are mounting.

DON'T OVER-REACT

We, as a group, need to stay strong and believe we can do great things together.

JUAN MATA, United midfielder, on the team recovering.

Striker Marcus Rashford limped out of Wednesday's match with nine minutes left clutching his thigh, and is being assessed by United's medical team.

That setback came after defender Eric Bailly was ruled out for two months with lateral knee ligament damage suffered during the defeat by Chelsea, while forwards Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial are battling injuries too, along with centre-back Chris Smalling.

Martial, withdrawn from the squad to face City because of a minor inflammation in his foot, is expected to feature against Burnley, with Rooney and Smalling likely to overcome muscle problems to be available for selection too.

Few would give Burnley much chance of causing an upset, but they have beaten Liverpool this season and are upbeat after Scott Arfield's late goal gave them a 2-1 victory over Everton last Saturday to complete a Merseyside double.

Sean Dyche will celebrate the fourth anniversary of his appointment as Burnley manager tomorrow.

His side, though, have yet to pick up a point away from home this season, with Sam Vokes' penalty in a 3-1 defeat by Southampton two weeks ago being the only goal they have scored on their travels.

Andre Gray is available to return to Burnley's attack, having served a four-match suspension imposed for offensive social media posts made in 2012, which came to wider attention earlier this season.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MANCHESTER UNITED V BURNLEY

Singtel TV Ch105 & StarHub Ch230, 9.50pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2016, with the headline 'Injuries pile up just as gloom over United lifts'. Print Edition | Subscribe