Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have returned to training in advance of the Manchester derby but under-fire Harry Maguire will be absent — a player United boss Erik ten Hag is convinced will turn things around.
The improving Red Devils will this weekend play their first Premier League match since beating Arsenal 3-1 on September 4th after the Crystal Palace and Leeds fixtures were called off following the death of the queen.
High-flying neighbours Manchester City are sure to provide a stern test for United, who go looking for a fifth successive Premier League victory without skipper Maguire in the squad.
The centre back picked up a knock during the international break with England — a period that forwards Rashford and Martial spent working their way back to fitness.
“Harry Maguire is injured,” Ten Hag said. “I think for the rest we have some doubts with Anthony Martial. But he was training all week with the group so I’m really happy with that situation. He’s performing really well in training, he makes a good impression.
“Rashford, he returns into training, so also we are happy with that. For the rest, I think only the long-term injuries like Axel Tuanzebe and Brandon Williams are not available.”
Maguire played the entirety of England’s loss to Italy last Friday before completing another 90 minutes against Germany, when he gave away a penalty and lost possession before the visitors’ second at Wembley.
That display led to renewed talk about Gareth Southgate’s loyalty to the 29-year-old, who has been out of form and favour at United this season.
But Ten Hag, like the England manager, retains faith in Maguire and is certain he will improve.
“First of all, of course I have to coach him, I have to back him,” the United boss said. “But I back him because I believe in him.
“In the period I worked with him in preseason was good, I think I would say really good — training and games.
“Then he fell out [of the starting line-up] — but it’s also to do with the good performance of the centre backs who are playing now.
“But I can see the qualities. Even after he wasn’t in the team, he trained really well, but more important the quality was really there.
“You see his career, almost 50 caps for England. With Leicester and Man United, he’s performing really well so what you see is he has a high potential.
“Then it’s about him. The players in the dressing room, the coaches, the manager, we all believe in him. Now it is about him.
“That is what I told him. I’m sure he can do it. He will turn around this. I am really convinced of that.”
Asked about the potential mental health impact on widely criticised players such as Maguire, Ten Hag said: “But it’s an aspect of top football, it’s an aspect of our work. We set conditions for that as manager. We also have experts around to help, to coach the players, the team in the right direction.
“I think he’s doing quite well, but every player has room for improvement and if he believes in his skills he will quickly be back on the level and even more than he did.
“Once again, I am convinced of that because I see his capabilities and it’s really high.”
Ten Hag heads into his first Manchester derby fresh from being named Premier League manager of the month for September, with Rashford winning the players’ award.
The Dutchman says that shows they are heading in the “right direction” but knows there is plenty of room for improvement as he prepares to try to stop City striker Erling Haaland.
Furthermore, Ten Hag will pit his wits against a man he knows well, as Pep Guardiola was manager of Bayern Munich when the United boss coached the second team.
“We don’t play against Haaland,” he said. “We play against Man City. They have a team, more than 11 players, but also we are convinced of our capabilities and if we act as a team, in and out of possession, then you can beat such opponents.
“That is the belief we have to take with us when we line up, when we start the game and we do it over more than 90 minutes on Sunday, clear.”