11/01/2018 09:20, Report by Mark Froggatt
Jose Mourinho is busy formulating his plan for Manchester United’s anticipated return to Premier League action on Monday night, when managerless Stoke City visit Old Trafford.
As this is a rare week without a fixture, the boss has flown his squad out to Dubai to complete a morale-boosting, warm-weather training camp at the superb Nad Al Sheba complex.
The images and videos from the Middle East show the players and staff are clearly enjoying the mini break from the campaign, although minds have remained focused on Monday’s visit of Stoke.
Mourinho has been busy working on tactics in training, which he hasn’t been able to do in recent months due to the hectic fixture list, and one question in his mind is who will start at right-back?
Ashley Young is still suspended as part of the three-match ban that he received for an incident against Southampton on 30 December. In his absence, against Everton and Derby County, Victor Lindelof has started and the Sweden international produced two eye-catching performances.
However, it is seemingly possible that first-choice right-back Antonio Valencia could make his return from injury after training all week in Dubai. The stand-in captain has been missing with a hamstring problem that he sustained during the victory over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on 17 December.
Mourinho is set to hold his pre-match press conference on Friday and the boss may provide an update on Valencia’s condition, and possibly Michael Carrick’s too after the welcomed images of the club captain training with the squad following his recent absence due to a heart problem.
Carrick has not played since the Carabao Cup tie against Burton Albion back in September and, in a statement released on 24 November, the 36-year-old midfielder revealed he had suffered from an irregular heart rhythm that required a procedure called a cardiac ablation.
Meanwhile, Eric Bailly is still unavailable in defence and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is expected to be out for another two to three weeks, after the manager’s recent declaration that the striker is out “for a month”.
It remains to be seen if Sergio Romero is fit – the Argentina international has not travelled to Dubai.