London: Romelu Lukaku has challenged his Manchester United teammates to show their fighting spirit in the wake of the club’s worsening injury crisis.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is facing the threat of being without almost all his first-choice midfield and attack for tomorrow’s trip to face Crystal Palace.
Solskjaer will hope Marcus Rashford is prepared to play through the pain barrier, despite claiming immediately after Sunday’s 0-0 draw against Liverpool that he would be “surprised” if the England striker is fit for Palace after playing almost the entire game with a sore ankle following a heavy seventh-minute challenge from Jordan Henderson.
Another forward, Anthony Martial, remains a doubt with a groin injury that has kept him out of the past two matches, while midfielders Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata and forward Jesse Lingard are all expected to miss the game with hamstring problems.
A trio of defenders Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian have also been struggling with injuries.
United are hopeful about Rashford but if he and Martial fail to recover in time, midfielder Paul Pogba will be the only member of Solskjaer’s first-choice front six available to play at Selhurst Park.
It is likely to mean a start for Alexis Sanchez and another opportunity in midfield for Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira, both of whom impressed against Liverpool.
Lukaku backed his fellow stand-ins to seize the moment. “We have a number of injuries but we have to stay positive — have that positive mentality,” the Belgium striker said. “We are Manchester United and you have to go wherever and win.
“You just have to adapt. It is about being mentally strong when you have players injured. Roy Hodgson will set up his Palace team really well, so we will prepare and we need to recover properly. But we will be ready to go again.
“Everybody is talking about us being offensively really good, but defensively we are doing really well. Chris Smalling coming in the last couple of games [after injury] has been brilliant and Luke Shaw has been the best player of the season for me.
Shaw admitted no punches were pulled by United’s players and staff during a “crazy” dressing-room inquest at half-time against Liverpool. “We were all very disappointed with how the first half went,” he said. “But we had a change of formation, we had a good chat at half-time.”