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Lukaku, Rashford, Jones cut World Cup rest short to return to work

Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Romelu Lukaku of Manchester United runs with the ball during the Premier League match between Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford on April 15, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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Three of Manchester United’s World Cup stars are heading back to the club’s Carrington training ground earlier than expected.

Heeding the pleas from manager Jose Mourinho, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford and Phil Jones will all return three days earlier than scheduled to training, which could allow them to be in the squad to face Leicester City, depending on how long it takes them to get some fitness into their legs. Manchester United opens the Premier League season at Old Trafford in nine days.

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“Rashford, Jones and Lukaku - they gave to the group and to the team three days of their holidays. They’re coming back three days early to try and be available for the team,” Mourinho said from Miami, where Man United defeated Real Madrid, 2-1 in its final U.S. friendly match. “With the fantastic spirit we have in the majority of the players - I repeat, in the majority of the players, we have a fantastic spirit - we go with everything we have to the Premier League.”

“Let’s look at it from a positive side and wait for [Victor] Lindelof, Rashford, Lukaku and Jones, which are going to be four important players for us, not prepared but they will be back and that’s the spirit we need.”

Mourinho has been a surly, whining man for the majority of preseason as his squad has been “decimated” by players on their World Cup holiday. While Lukaku, Rashford and Jones are coming back early, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini are still recovering from the long Premier League season and World Cup, leaving Mourinho without much of his first team squad for the first few weeks of the season. In addition, Antonio Valencia and Nemanja Matic are nursing injuries.

This is a problem that happens every two-to-four years, especially in World Cup years, but Mourinho has preferred to complain about his players needing rest than just accept it and plan all he can for how he’s going to beat Leicester, Brighton and Hova Albion and Tottenham in the opening three weeks of the season.

For what it’s worth, it appears Lukaku was in the U.S. recently. Just not with the rest of the Man United squad.