Jose Mourinho thinks Memphis Depay will leave Manchester United in January
Jose Mourinho has been reluctant to give Memphis Depay the chance to resurrect his Manchester United career because he is expecting him to leave in January.
The 22-year-old midfielder arrived at Old Trafford from PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 2015 after finishing the previous season as the top scorer in the Eredivisie but, despite a reunion with his former national manager Louis van Gaal, Depay failed to nail down a regular spot and has fallen even further down the pecking order under Mourinho.
All four of his Premier League appearances this season, which amount to a combined 20 minutes, have come in fleeting cameos from the bench and it is over a month since the Dutchman was even included in a match-day squad.
If Depay, who was this week photographed appearing to smoke from a shisha pipe, feels he has therefore not been given a fair crack of the whip in his ambition to prove himself at United, Mourinho stressed it is because he has been under the assumption that his days at the club were numbered anyway.
"I have to say that in the past couple of months my decisions in relation to Memphis were influenced by the feelings and information that he would like to leave in January and that we were going to have a real offer that we would be willing to accept," Mourinho said.
"That obviously influences me. If I know, if I have the feeling that a player is leaving - if I have to give chances and develop other players - then I go to (Jesse) Lingard, (Henrikh) Mkhitaryan, (Anthony) Martial, the players I know 100 per cent who are going to stay with us. It is a position where we have more options."
Mourinho is not prepared to let any players bar goalkeeper Sam Johnstone leave on loan when the transfer window reopens so Everton's Ronald Koeman, who has already registered his interest in his Dutch compatriot Depay, and other admirers will have to stump up the cash.
With that in mind, Mourinho insists it is not a foregone conclusion that Depay departs.
"I know the public image is always influenced by some details of their private lives but the reality is that he is a very good professional, a very good boy," Mourinho added of Depay.
"He has a high level of education, super polite, super professional, and works really hard. But it's a position where I have Martial, Mkhitaryan, (Juan) Mata, Lingard plus (Wayne) Rooney and (Marcus) Rashford who can also play in this position. So we have six, seven players.
"When I have the feeling and information that the player probably has a big chance to leave then I have to care more about the others.
"But if you arrive in January and nothing happens - and we have lots of matches - then if he is going to be my player until the end of the season I will help him and he will be useful for us."
One player whose importance to United is clear is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The 35-year-old needs a brace against Middlesbrough on Saturday to finish the calendar year with more than the 51 Lionel Messi has managed.
Mourinho has indicated United will not try to sign another striker next month to ease the burden on the Swede, even if he concedes it would be "a disaster" were Ibrahimovic to pick up an injury, and he believes his forward's record is even more impressive given he is not his club's designated penalty taker.
"In Spain, Messi and Cristiano (Ronaldo) have a lot of penalties to score," Mourinho said. "They are phenomenal players with lots of penalties to score goals. Here, Zlatan has 18 matches and one penalty. It's not so easy to score goals."