Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has said he still needs more time to judge his players, adding that there could be “a surprise behind the door” within his squad.
Mourinho’s words will encourage fringe players who missed out on Thursday’s 1-0 Europa League win over Zorya Luhansk such as Memphis Depay, who was an unused substitute and has only played 88 minutes of competitive football so far this season.
Competition for places is intensifying, with Mourinho saying that Phil Jones is now the only injured player in his squad and that the club is in “fine” shape.
“I need time. I need the players to play,” Mourinho told reporters. “I need to see them in different circumstances and I need to understand more about them. There are so many and so much to learn about the players.
“Only when you work with them for a long time do you know them well. There is always a surprise behind the door when you work for the team for three or four or five months.
“Every game I know more about my players, especially the ones who are on the pitch. Obviously I would like to have other players playing more, so I can see more and I can learn more about them.
“I had in my mind to play with Memphis for 20, 25 minutes [against Zorya Luhansk] but I couldn’t with the way that I had to make changes. But we need the squad, that’s for sure. The Europa League is the competition that disturbs more than the domestic competitions because you play Thursdays.”
The United squad will be tested during October as they face Stoke City on Sunday and then have a gruelling period after the international break. That includes five games in 12 days as they take on Liverpool, Chelsea and Burnley in the Premier League, as well as Fenerbahce in the Europa League and Manchester City in the EFL Cup.
“Every game is massive,” Mourinho said. “Watford was massive. We lost three points against Watford. That’s no different to the three points we lost against Manchester City. But, you are right, we have some big opponents in October.”