Jose Mourinho indicated Friday that he will ration Diogo Dalot's Manchester United appearances despite an impressive midweek debut in the Champions League.
Mourinho declared that Dalot, 19, was the best young full-back in Europe after signing him from Porto for £19 million ($25 million) in June.
The right-back’s debut was delayed while he recovered from knee surgery but he looked assured as he made his first appearance for the club on Wednesday in a 3-0 Champions League victory over Swiss club Young Boys.
Despite that strong display, Mourinho said he would leave the teenager out of his line-up to face Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday, instead selecting him for Tuesday’s League Cup third-round home tie against Championship side Derby.
Antonio Valencia is expected to return in the right-back role, having been rested for the midweek win over the Swiss champions.
The manager explained that Dalot needs time to adjust to life at United in order to realise his potential.
“I want him in this process of adaptation to play totally fresh, so he’s not playing tomorrow, he plays Tuesday again,” said Mourinho.
“To play for Manchester United is difficult enough for a kid of 19 years old coming from another country and after an important injury and surgery. That is difficult enough, he doesn’t need to face more difficulty.
“But he showed on Wednesday, for the ones that don’t know him very, very well he is not a player to be here just for development. He is a player to be here to compete for positions (in the team). He’s a very good player.”
– United find form –
United go into the Wolves game on a run of three straight victories, conceding only one goal in the process.
Mourinho has fielded a central defensive partnership of Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof in each of those three wins, having started the season with Eric Bailly playing alongside the Sweden international.
However, the manager has rejected the suggestion that Smalling and Lindelof are now his first-choice centre-back pairing, or that they should take all the credit for the defensive record.
“I think the team is resolving the defensive problems better than before,” he said. “I don’t want to say was Bailly or (Phil) Jones (before) and that it is now Smalling or Lindelof.
“I think the team is more compact, more solid. The spirit, the cooperation, the empathy, the communication — all of that improve the team.”
Mourinho’s agent, Jorge Mendes, has strong links with Saturday’s opponents Wolves, where he works as an adviser to Chinese owners Fosun — and he also represents their Portuguese manager Nuno Espirito Santo.
The closeness of Mendes’ involvement at Molineux prompted the English Football League to investigate the set-up last season, although it was found to comply with the body’s rules.
Asked if he spoke to Mendes about Wolves, Mourinho said: “No, I haven’t spoken with him for quite a long time to be honest, but when we speak we don’t speak about my job or his job. He’s my agent and that’s it.
“But I think the work being done at Wolves is good because is not just about Portuguese influence, a Portuguese manager, staff and players. It is also about getting the right ones and I think they’ve got good young players and got also good experienced, stable players.”