Paul Pogba appears to be getting closer to a Manchester United comeback, but manager Jose Mourinho remains unsure as to when the France midfielder will be fit to return.
United have maintained a strong start to the season since Pogba suffered a hamstring injury against Basel last month and are second in the Premier League as they prepare for Saturday’s trip to Huddersfield Town.
There is no doubt, though, that the midfielder’s quality was missed in their two most recent matches.
United had to defend stoutly to earn a 0-0 draw at Liverpool last Saturday before grinding out a 1-0 victory over Benfica in the Champions League in Portugal on Wednesday.
Pogba posted a video on social media on Thursday of himself doing full sprints and looking in athletic shape, raising hopes he may return sooner rather than later.
United have been short of players in midfield of late, with Marouane Fellaini missing the Liverpool and Benfica games with a knee injury sustained while playing for Belgium at the start of October.
It means Nemanja Matic has been paired with Ander Herrera in the two holding midfield roles and they are set to stay there if neither Fellaini nor Pogba recover in time.
There are concerns, too, over Marcus Rashford, who scored Wednesday’s winning goal in Lisbon before picking up a knee injury.
Given Mourinho has made a habit of alternating Rashford with Anthony Martial this season, it is likely the France forward would have stepped back into the starting line-up at the John Smith’s Stadium anyway.
Phil Jones, who has been struggling with injuries of late, is set to be available for Saturday, but fellow defender Eric Bailly remains a doubt with a groin injury.
Wagner calls for bravery
“Phil Jones was on the bench because he felt that if we really needed him, he could play,” said Mourinho, whose side trail leaders Manchester City by two points.
“So on Saturday I think he will be in a condition to play. For Eric Bailly, I think it will be difficult.
“With Rashford, I thought it was cramp because he was running so much –- I thought it was muscular fatigue.
“But no, he told me he felt something in his knee. It didn’t look to me like a big thing, but we don’t know.
“Hopefully some of them can return at Huddersfield, but I don’t know. I don’t know about Paul (Pogba), I don’t know about Fellaini.”
Huddersfield’s wonderful start in the Premier League, following May’s surprise promotion via the Championship play-offs, has faded significantly over the past few weeks.
David Wagner’s side enjoyed victory in their opening two league matches, but have not won any of their last six, scoring just once in that run.
They were poor last Saturday, losing 2-0 away to a Swansea City team who had not picked up a single home point until then.
The fixtures now start to get tricky for Wagner and his players, with the home game against United followed by a trip to Liverpool seven days later.
The imminent return of former Montpellier striker Steve Mounie may help.
He has not featured for more than a month because of a heel injury, but has been able to enjoy a full week’s training to boost his fitness.
Wagner says his players need to be more disciplined to rediscover their early-season form.
He said: “You can miss your chances, be unlucky and make mistakes, but it cannot happen that you don’t follow your match plan and that you aren’t brave enough with the ball.”