Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling are fighting for their futures at Manchester United following Jose Mourinho’s furious accusation that some of his players lack the toughness to play through pain.

The England pair missed the club’s 3-1 Premier League victory at Swansea City on Sunday after telling the United manager they were unable to play. Mourinho launched a stinging public attack after having to select a makeshift defence for the clash, declaring: ‘We have players with problems.’

The manager delivered a similar message in the dressing room to the players, giving those present the impression the absent pair may have no future at the club.
A source said: ‘Jose had quite a few strong things to say. It left the players with the impression that they might be struggling.’

On Monday, sources close to Shaw said the player was ‘baffled’ by the criticism. The 21-year-old is thought to have suffered a problem during Thursday’s 2-1 defeat at Fenerbahce in the same leg he broke in an horrific injury last year.

Smalling’s camp are thought to hold similar feelings following the extraordinary outburst.

Mourinho had praised the 26-year-old for playing through the pain in United’s 4-0 thrashing at Chelsea on October 23 — a match for which he had taken two painkilling injections.

Yet following the victory at Swansea, Mourinho said: ‘Smalling doesn’t feel that he can play 100 per cent with his pain.

Luke Shaw told me this morning that he was not in the condition to play, so we had to build a defensive line. There is a difference between the brave, who want to be there at any cost, and the ones for whom a little pain can make a difference.’

England interim manager Gareth Southgate defended the duo after they were ruled out of his squad for the games against Scotland and Spain.

He said: ‘Are they flaky? I don’t know Chris well but that wouldn’t be my impression, having worked with him.

‘Luke I know well and Luke’s had a really tough injury. He was with us in September under Sam Allardyce and was feeling problems with the leg. There’s clearly something.

‘After an injury as severe as that, we’ve got to handle that with care. It’s a difficult balance but that’s where we have to trust our medical teams.’
Southgate believes, in Shaw’s case, there are psychological barriers that need overcoming before the left back is completely over his leg-break.

‘With any injury, any recovery, there are physical and psychological aspects to that,’ he said. ‘That is definitely part of the process of getting a player back into playing.

‘There can be different approaches towards that because sometimes you might need a nudge to say, “Come on, you can”. Every injury is different, every individual is different. I’ve not known players not play unless there is something.

‘It’s a difficult one because I don’t know the reason for the comments Jose made. If they haven’t played, there’s obviously something wrong.’

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