The Basque is one of six confirmed United players missing through injury alongside Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Marouane Fellaini, Daley Blind and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Sergio Romero was also not spotted at the Lowry Hotel and the presence of Kieran O’Hara suggests that the Argentine is a surprise absentee.
Chelsea’s United record
It cannot happen this season thanks to Alvaro Morata’s header, but it is a remarkable statistic that United have never done the league double over Chelsea since The Blues were promoted back to the top flight in 1989. United last did the double over Chelsea in the 87-88 season, which is an incredible record, bearing in mind Chelsea became a true force from 1997 onwards.
United had a decent record at Stamford Bridge until the turn of the century and have won only three times at Chelsea in the 21st century. It will have come as a relief when United’s number was plucked out as a home side in the FA Cup quarter-final draw last week.
As for Chelsea’s last double against United, that was in 2009-10, back when Carlo Ancelotti was manager.
Predicted midfield trio
Chelsea brought the best out of Mourinho’s United here last season. That 2-0 win remains the finest performance of the Mourinho era, given the opposition and the surprising team news that featured the omissions of Ibrahimovic and Mkhitaryan from the XI.
Mourinho’s midfield two were overrun by Chelsea in November on a day where Tiemoue Bakayoko actually quelled the Nemanja Matic naysayers. Mourinho is unlikely to repeat his mistake today, particularly after what happened at Tottenham on January 31. Matic, Pogba and McTominay would be the predicted midfield three.
Which TV channel is Manchester United vs Chelsea on?
Manchester United vs Chelsea will be shown live on Sky Sports Main Event on Sunday, February 25.
Nemanja Matic is today’s programme interviewee and is under no illusions over the importance of Paul Pogba.
“Paul, of course, is very important for us,” he says. “His quality can decide a game and he can always do something more when you need it.”
If Mourinho were to start Pogba on the bench today then it would be a greater insult than Rafael starting ahead of him against Blackburn on New Year’s Eve 2011, or Paul Scholes bed-blocking him a week later. If Mourinho does the unthinkable today then Pogba may as well start looking for a new club.
Last meeting between Mourinho and Conte in England?
This is the era of the superstar manager in the Premier League but few would have seen Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte’s intense rivalry coming – even if the latter was taking the reins at the Portuguese’s old stomping ground.
Indeed, it is easy to forget that the pair met on the touchline for the first time in October, 2016 – despite both managing at the top for so long – and they immediately got off on the wrong foot.
With Mourinho back at Stamford Bridge for the first time, Conte could not help but get carried away as his side romped to a 4-0 win. That set the tone for a managerial rivalry like no other in world football right now.
Numerous incidents since spring to mind. Mourinho kicking a ball in his general direction; Conte saying he did not want a Mourinho season in his second campaign; Mourinho referencing Conte’s hair transplant and match-fixing charge; Conte saying Mourinho had demenza senile; the ‘little man’ jibe. The list goes on.
How many managers can come close to that kind of a long-running spat in the last 18 months?
The reality is, with Conte likely to depart at the end of the season, this could be the last meeting between the pair in England. Forget the mind games, the programme notes or the pre-match handshake, Mourinho will only be judged on whether he gets the upper hand tactically and on the field this afternoon.
The United boss has just one win to date against Conte and that came at Old Trafford nearly a year ago