Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has said that Eric Bailly has been left out of selection in the past few weeks because Ivory Coast have not qualified for the World Cup.
Mourinho added that he was obligated to give his other four central defenders the chance to shine, because Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Victor Lindelöf are all striving to win a place in their national squads for Russia.
The Portuguese manager also denied reports of a rift or possible sale after Bailly has not played since the Manchester derby a month ago.
“There is no situation, Eric is fine,” he said. “In all honesty my work is not about the World Cup and preparing players for their national teams. I try to be a good team manager and that means being a little bit cold and selfish at times, but I am not as bad as all that and I still have space for a little bit of feeling.”
“If I have to make an emotional choice then Eric is the one I am not going to help. The other four are all fighting for a place.”
United will visit Brighton on Friday night with the home side knowing a victory would make Premier League survival mathematically certain, though Mourinho believes Chris Hughton has already done enough to keep his side up.
“Chris has done a very good job and all he needs to turn that into an amazing job is for safety to be mathematically confirmed,” he said. “Personally, I think Brighton have enough points already.”
Mourinho will also have the opportunity to give Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford a rare start in the middle, because Romelu Lukaku is in Belgium for treatment on an ankle injury in an effort to be fit for the FA Cup final on 19 May.
“They have had limited opportunities because Romelu has been playing so well but I trust them both,” he said.