Jose Mourinho still hopes Marouane Fellaini can be persuaded to stay at Manchester United as the Belgium midfielder edges towards leaving as a free agent this summer.
Fellaini has rejected United’s offer of a new contract and is being linked with a number of clubs, notably Besiktas and Fenerbahce in Turkey.
The 30-year-old has not played since the end of January after succumbing to a persistent knee injury sustained on international duty in October, and Mourinho expects him back in action next month.
But the United boss is uncertain if Fellaini, a £27.5million signing from Everton in 2013, will stay beyond the end of the season as he considers his options.
‘Is he going to stay or leave? I don’t know,’ said Mourinho. ‘I want him to stay, the club want him to stay. The process – negotiations, numbers, distances between the offer and what he wants – I really don’t know.
‘He’s still a young player. His injury, he had a little surgery but minor surgery, and he will be back to play again in a couple of weeks.
‘So if we proceed in the Champions League after Sevilla, I think he will be ready for a hypothetical quarter-final, a hypothetical FA Cup semi-final, for the last couple of months of our Premier League fight.’
In Fellaini’s absence, young Scott McTominay has seized his first-team opportunities after making 15 appearances since mid-September.
The 21-year-old midfielder has made such an impact that England and Scotland are believed to be fighting to win his allegiance. He met with Alex McLeish on Thursday and Gareth Southgate was at Carrington on Friday as they prepare to name their squads next week.
McTominay has a Scottish father and Mourinho appeared to be nudging the player in that direction, but the United manager insisted on Friday that he doesn’t know what the outcome will be.
He added: ‘I can’t confirm at all that both national teams have contacted him. I can’t confirm because I have no information about that.
‘My advice to him is not about national teams. It’s not about that. My advice is to keep the way he is: very humble, very open to learn, intelligent, and keep going in the same direction.
‘Same profile, trying to fight to have minutes with Manchester United which is not easy, and then national team will be just a consequence of his work at the club.
‘I think the people around him are the right people. I never met them but I have to believe the kid with his attitude towards the others and towards football, the parents must be really good people that pass to him the right values.
‘The kid has his feet on the ground, he’s very calm. So I think he passed some important tests not by the football point of view but the mental point of view – maturity, calm play against champions, and play knockout in the Champions League.
‘So I think there’s a long way to go, obviously, but very good feet on the ground, very stable and I hope he can keep the same image.’