Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho indicated to out-of-favour midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger on Friday that there will be no place for him at Old Trafford this season.
The Germany international has two years to run on a reported £190,000-a-week ($251,000, 222,200 euros) contract, but has been frozen out by United’s new manager.
Schweinsteiger, 32, has declared he will not join another European club and Mourinho suggested that if he stays, he may not even play in the Europa League or the English Football League Cup.
Asked if Schweinsteiger might play this season, Mourinho said: “I think it’s very difficult to happen. I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m saying it’s very difficult.
“I have Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, Morgan Schneiderlin, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick. That’s five players for two positions. It’s difficult that a chance will arise.”
Mourinho admitted he is surprised Schweinsteiger is willing to see out his deal.
“I cannot answer for him,” he said. “It’s his life. It’s his career. He has a contract with Manchester United and has decided to stay. That’s not a problem for us.
“Football is about decisions. I’ve done that throughout my career. Not just me, everyone does. Some players react in a different way.
“Bastian is not speaking a lot, apart from the one statement he has made. He is free to do that in an objective and polite way like he did.”
Mourinho hinted that even the players in the club’s academy have more chance of getting a game than Schweinsteiger this season.
– Pereira loan –
“I have 23 players in the squad and in principle nobody is leaving because I don’t want anyone to leave and no-one is coming, and 23 players is more than enough,” he said.
“If we have any kind of problem or opportunity, I have a few young players in the academy, and I will be more than happy to accelerate their development by bringing them up.
“I think we are going to have a very quiet week in the transfer window, not surrounded by helicopters waiting for people to arrive and leave.”
Schweinsteiger joined United last year from Bayern Munich, whose president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has criticised Mourinho’s treatment of the player.
“I thought after I read some quotes from people at Bayern Munich that they would run to Manchester to bring him back, but no, it did not happen,” Mourinho said.
“I am quite surprised that Mr Rummennigge is not here.”
The United manager, who takes his team to Hull City in the Premier League on Saturday, revealed that midfielder Andreas Pereira will be joining LaLiga club Granada on loan.
Mourinho also welcomed a Europa League group-stage draw that pitted his team against Dutch side Feyenoord, Turkish giants Fenerbahce and Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk.
“It’s good for us because it feels as if we are in the Champions League,” he said. “There are groups of a similar quality in the Champions League. We know it will be a difficult group.
“I think it’s good for the competition, which doesn’t have the same glamour in the Champions League.
“To have Manchester United in the competition playing against clubs such as Fenerbahce and Feyenoord is good for us.”