Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Eric Bailly could be out for several months yet after the defender has been unable to shift the ankle injury he picked up on international duty with the Ivory Coast.

The manager has suggested that the defender may need surgery. He claims this shouldn’t keep him out for the rest of the season but can’t put a date on his return.

I think his injury is serious. I don’t know [how long he will be out] but his is an injury that comes from the last time he went with the international team and then we are trying a conservative treatment. But, if the conservative treatment is not resulting, probably he will have a surgery procedure but let’s wait a little bit more.

I’m not a doctor, I think the doctor can inform [you]. There’s nothing to hide, but I don’t want to be speaking about it. I don’t want to be so pessimistic. I want to leave it with a doctor. Today, I played Smalling and Jones and we had Lindelof and Blind on the bench. Marcos Rojo was injured but nothing really big.

During the whole season, we’ve had problems with central defenders but because the number is four or five, we manage always to have [players available] and Chris Smalling is playing amazingly well for seven or eight matches in a row maybe, so we are fine.

With Phil Jones seeming to get injured every other week and Marcos Rojo only having just returned a few weeks ago, before picking up another injury against Manchester City, United could be fairly thin at the back.

Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling are still available, although the latter has played 90 minutes for the last 17 games on the bounce, which works out at a full game every four days. This isn’t the best preparation for the busy Christmas period.

Daley Blind is an option, as is Axel Tuanzebe, even if the manager is yet to show the same faith in him as he has fellow youngster Scott McTominay.

Having been without our best player, Paul Pogba, for some long, to now be without our best defender indefinitely is so frustrating.

At present, nobody has conceded fewer goals than us. Our back line and David de Gea are going to have to work incredibly hard to keep that record in tact.