Jose Mourinho will be able to call on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Phil Jones, and Nemanja Matic for this weekend’s “special” Manchester derby.
Old Trafford hosts the most hotly-anticipated match of the Premier League season as Pep Guardiola’s swashbuckling side attempt to extend their lead at the summit to double digits.
United are desperate to cut back Manchester City’s eight-point advantage on Sunday, when their chances are bolstered by the timely return of three key players – and perhaps also Marouane Fellaini.
“Zlatan is available, Jones is available,” Mourinho said. “Fellaini I have to wait until tomorrow.
“(Michael) Carrick is not available, (Eric) Bailly is not available. (Nemanja) Matic is injured, but he plays.”
Such options are a welcome boost given star turn Paul Pogba starts a three-match ban.
Earlier this week, the France midfielder conceded this was a must-win game for United and, while not necessarily believing the champions will come from Manchester, Mourinho is aware of its importance to the city.
“No, I think we can, but I think other teams can be champions,” Mourinho said of the title credentials of the Manchester clubs.
“I live a little bit isolated from society, I don’t feel it so much (the rivalry). It’s about training ground and hotel, my day off after CSKA (Moscow) I went home.
“So I really don’t have that communication, but I don’t need that to know a derby is something special for the people.
“For us, in the end, it’s three points but honestly I think for the people born in the city and feeling the colours in that good, positive rivalry, I think it is a special match.”
Mourinho was curt on the whole in the pre-match press conference, but opened up when asked about the impact of the clubs on a city brought together by May’s terror attack.
“These are the beautiful things that football can do,” Mourinho said.
“We could fill in that period that the clubs were ready to work together for the city. That’s no doubt.
“It would be really sad if that was not the case.
“Now, this is a football match, an important football match where I wish that everything goes well in relation to the fans.
“I think if taken in the right way, the derbies are a beautiful thing – same city, different colours.
“Friends they support different colours, even under the same roof. In some families they disagree on the passion for the colours.
“I think if taken in the right way, I think it is a beautiful thing.
“So I hope that tomorrow, before the game you have a city full of colour, red and blue, and after the game, the same and during the game that’s a football match where everyone wants to win.”
Guardiola has suggested United’s height advantage and physicality could be an advantage, but Mourinho laughed that off.
“I think it will be easy for (Vincent) Kompany to compete against (Juan) Mata in the air,” he said bluntly as the press conference came to a close.
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