BURTON UPON TRENT, England -- Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has responded to Jose Mourinho's comments about his willingness to play while not 100 percent fit, saying the United manager had spoken before knowing the full extent of his injuries.
England international Smalling suffered a stop-start season at Old Trafford, missing large chunks of a campaign in which United played 64 games.
He sat out more than two months before Christmas with a broken toe and was absent for a further month in the spring after suffering a knee problem.
Mourinho directed a series of pointed comments at Smalling, as well as teammates Phil Jones and Luke Shaw, suggesting the defenders were not as brave as some colleagues when it came to returning from injuries.
The manager suggested Smalling often did not want to play when not 100 percent fit, but the defender denied that was the case and pointed to United's defeat at Chelsea in October as one example.
Speaking ahead of England's World Cup qualifier against Scotland on Saturday, he said: "Obviously he didn't know the full extent [of the injuries] at that time.
"You just keep playing until literally, physically, you can't, and that was the story. But I don't think he knew the full picture then, and once it was cleared up it was all good.
"To be honest, I don't think any player is ever 100 percent. There's always something. It's about going on the pitch and doing a job. We're always managing things."
In April, speaking after United had beaten Anderlecht in the Europa League quarterfinal, Mourinho said: "It's time for Jones and Smalling to be brave, because for the team you have to do everything. You can't do miracles, but you have to try to do everything to accelerate the process."
Smalling said he felt those comments demonstrated Mourinho's broader annoyance with the extensive injury problems United suffered towards the end of the season.
"We had a lot of injuries at that time, and he was frustrated that quite a lot of players weren't available," he added.
"When I'm sitting down with the manager and the medical staff we set out a timeline and then we try to shave it and push and push. They are always trying to push us as quick as we can.
"It's good when he shows that frustration because it shows he wants you back out on the pitch. If he wasn't interested, he would just leave you alone and he wouldn't say any of these things.
"So I take it as a positive, as a challenge to get back as quick as I can -- which I would have done anyway, regardless of whatever was said."