Jose Mourinho admits inexperienced Manchester United line-up is far from ideal
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho admits the string of youngsters set to face Crystal Palace are not ready for this weekend's baptism of fire.
Three days before the make-or-break Europa League final against Ajax, the injury-hit Red Devils will go through the motions at Old Trafford as the Premier League comes to an underwhelming conclusion.
Mourinho has long since announced his intention to play a weakened side against Sam Allardyce's Palace on Sunday in a bid to keep his players fit and fresh for Stockholm.
Joel Pereira, Kieran O'Hara, Demetri Mitchell, Scott McTominay, Josh Harrop, Matthew Willock, Zachary Dearnley and 16-year-old midfielder Angel Gomes will all be involved on Sunday, according to Mourinho.
Asked if the young players were ready, the Portuguese said: "All together? No.
"I think one in the middle of a good structure, a dynamic structure, an experienced structure, I think, yes. I think lots of them together, no."
Mourinho confirmed 19-year-old defenders Tim Fosu-Mensah, back after a shoulder injury, and Axel Tuanzebe would also play on Sunday - a bold, callow line-up borne out of necessity.
"The only positive is to save my players to give them better conditions for Wednesday," Mourinho said.
"It's the only positive thing.
"Of course individually for the kids, I think it will be a great experience: Old Trafford, Premier League, Crystal Palace, last match of the season. I think for the kids it will be a big occasion, it will always be good experience for them.
"But I think the best debut for a young player is in the middle of an experienced structure, where he can be supported.
"To play so many kids at the same time, honestly, I don't think it's good.
"Obviously there is a big difference of quality, strength, experience between them and good players, experienced players like Crystal Palace have.
"I would prefer to give them debuts like I gave to Axel against Reading, to Joel against Wigan - or a big match, but for one player.
"With so many at the same time, I think they really need my support, (reserves manager) Nicky Butt's support (and) supporters to understand the difficult job they have, because it will not be an easy one for them."
It will not just be kids playing against Palace as Mourinho confirmed £89million signing Paul Pogba will start after missing the past two matches following the death of his father Fassou Antoine at the age of 79 last Friday.
"Paul is fine," the United manager said. "Strong guy, strong mentality.
"He is learning how to live after his father passed away, but he is strong, and he knows he needs to play next Sunday because he hasn't played or trained for a long time and he needs these minutes on the pitch. He plays against Palace."
Marouane Fellaini is having a hamstring injury assessed, while Chris Smalling is set to be fit for Wednesday's final despite a "small problem" keeping him out against Palace.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young are definitely out of the Europa League final, with Mourinho bemoaning United's injury situation when previewing the Ajax clash.
The Portuguese also spoke of the "unbelievable" fixture schedule and took aim at those that "like to lie" about United's situation.
The frantic schedule and injuries have seen Mourinho rotate in recent league games, with captain Wayne Rooney, strongly linked with a summer Old Trafford exit, likely to be among those rested on Sunday.
"I don't know," the United boss said.
"I will bring three or four of the first-team players to play one half each one, where I can give a little bit of experience to the team but at the same time save them all for Wednesday.
"I don't know (whether) Wayne (will play) or not. He played 90 minutes in the last match, so probably not."