Football: Jose Mourinho orders probe into Manchester United's injury crisis

Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (right) and team-mate Henrikh Mkhitaryan in action during last week's Europa League defeat by Fenerbahce. It was Mkhitaryan's first United appearance since Sept 10.
Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (right) and team-mate Henrikh Mkhitaryan in action during last week's Europa League defeat by Fenerbahce. It was Mkhitaryan's first United appearance since Sept 10. PHOTO: REUTERS

United boss to investigate medical team but his training methods may be part of problem

LONDON • Jose Mourinho is unhappy with Manchester United's medical department and wants the English football club to undertake a review because of the number of injuries to his squad.

The United manager has not singled out any individual in the medical team, which is headed by the vastly experienced doctor Steve McNally. But he is hugely frustrated at having lost players to injury for a combined total of 33 Premier League match days this season and is seeking improvements.

As well as Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw, whom Mourinho appeared to criticise after Sunday's 3-1 win away to Swansea City, United have also been without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial, Phil Jones and Wayne Rooney for significant periods.

Shaw returned to training on Tuesday with Mourinho hoping to get him match-fit in time for United's next Premier League game, against Arsenal next Saturday.

United's handling of Mkhitaryan, who has missed seven Premier League matches, is thought to be a particular source of contention.

The Armenia midfielder declared himself fit for the Manchester derby on Sept 10, despite injuring a thigh on international duty the previous week, before being substituted at half-time in Manchester City's 2-1 win at Old Trafford.

Despite that setback, it took three more days for Mkhitaryan to have a scan confirming the extent of the injury. He was out of action for almost two months until last week's Europa League defeat by Fenerbahce, after which he was criticised again by Mourinho.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic also has issues with the fitness and conditioning work he has undertaken since joining United last summer, although those concerns appear to be related to Mourinho's methods rather than the medical department.

It is understood that the former Sweden striker feels he has lost sharpness since leaving Paris Saint-Germain in the summer and believes that United's players do not do enough aerobic work in training, with Mourinho preferring to conduct the majority of sessions with the ball.

The statistics appear to support Ibrahimovic's concerns, as United's players have collectively covered less ground than all other Premier League clubs this season.

Mourinho has clashed with medical staff on numerous occasions during his career and is renowned for putting pressure on them to ensure his players are available for certain matches.

In his first season at Chelsea, in 2004-05, Dr Neil Frazer left the club after a disagreement over the fitness of Dutch winger Arjen Robben.

Last season, Dr Eva Carneiro resigned from her position at Stamford Bridge after Mourinho publicly criticised her decision to treat Eden Hazard during a Premier League match and questioned her knowledge of the game.

Mourinho brought Carlos Lalin, an Italian physiotherapist, with him when he joined United last summer. He may seek to make further changes, although the club remain happy with the work of club doctor McNally and Neil Hough, the head physiotherapist.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2016, with the headline 'Jose orders probe into injury crisis'. Print Edition | Subscribe