Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku could return from head injury to face Derby in FA Cup

Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku could return from head injury to face Derby in FA Cup

José Mourinho has revealed that Romelu Lukaku's absence due to a head injury could be restricted to just one game and that he could make an earlier-than-expected return on Friday night against Derby County in the third round of the FA Cup.

Charlie Malam

Romelu Lukaku could be fit for Manchester United's FA Cup third-round clash with Derby County on Friday night, José Mourinho has revealed.

The Belgian striker missed out on a first return to Goodison Park since leaving Everton to move to Old Trafford in a £90 million move last summer after sustaining a head injury in their draw at home to Southampton on Saturday.

But even without 15-goal Lukaku, United got back to winning ways via sensational goals from Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard in the second half - ending a four-game run without victory.

And further boosts could be to come with Lukaku - whose injury was first feared to be serious - potentially making his return within just a week in their cup tie with Championship promotion hopefuls Derby.

Mourinho revealed that the 24-year-old even wanted to play against Everton, but that on precautionary advice from the medical department was rested.

That meant he joined the suspended Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia, Marouane Fellaini, Eric Bailly, Michael Carrick and Zlatan Ibrahimović as a lengthy list of players unavailable to face the Toffees - though Matteo Darmian and Chris Smalling both made the bench.

"We had to stop Lukaku from playing against Everton"

Asked whether United could have any of their injured players back against Derby, Mourinho said: "I don't think so. Maybe Smalling can make that [next] step towards the recovery [but] I don't think so, no.

"Romelu is not a problem, maybe he can play [vs Derby]. It was precaution by the doctor, we were following the rules, to protect the situation. But Romelu was in the dressing room [after the incident], never lost memory, knew what happened.

"He didn't come today to follow the protocol but he wanted to play and we had to stop him because he was saying: 'I feel amazing, I should go and play'.

"But to follow the protocol and also to protect the player, we decided not to play him."

United will always compete despite injuries, says Mourinho

Though United endured their longest streak without a victory since May before their trip to Merseyside, Mourinho insists he never lost faith in his players as he spoke about their first-team injury crisis. 

Asked about whether United need new signings in the January transfer market to be able to compete given their absentees, Mourinho declared: "We will compete always. We compete today and we didn't have, I think, nine players. I think nine players were not here today.

"We will always compete, I always say that I like my guys very, very much. We have a fantastic relation, we give our best and try always to do well. When we don't do well, we stick together and we fight together. 

"If somebody [a new signing] comes, welcome. If nobody's coming, we are going to fight with the players we have.

"Today, I had not one more player to select. Even Smalling was on the bench but he could only play in an emergency situation [such as] the last five minutes [if] they bring Michael Keane to striker, I bring [on] Smalling to give us the help there or something like that.

"But Chris was not in condition to play. All of the players here today were the players that we had. As a group, we did it.

"If in this moment we are not winning, we don't have the three points but we have the same kind of dedication in the performance, I would be not as happy as I am now but I will be with the same good feeling towards the players that I have now."