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Manchester United's Jose Mourinho: Fred will play when team is defensively stronger

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MANCHESTER, England -- Jose Mourinho has said it is a risk to play Brazilian midfielder Fred while Manchester United are leaking goals.

Fred, a £48 million summer signing from Shakhtar Donetsk, has started just three of the last 14 games and was axed from the squad for the midweek 2-2 draw with Arsenal.

United have conceded 25 goals in the Premier League -- only one fewer than 17th-placed Huddersfield -- and Mourinho said they had to tighten up at the back before the 25-year-old could get a run in the team.

"You have also other players in other clubs that needed their time and you have some of them that played even less than what Fred is playing," Mourinho told a news conference ahead of Fulham's visit to Old Trafford on Saturday.

"I think Fred, when the team is defensively stronger and doesn't need in midfield people that is more worried in giving balance to the team than being involved in creation and attacking dynamic, the day we are stronger defensively, I think the horizons for Fred change completely."

United are looking to end a run of four league games without a win against Fulham but Mourinho says they will have to do so with players "not at their maximum."

An injury crisis forced the Portuguese coach to field Diogo Dalot, Marcos Rojo, Eric Bailly and Matteo Darmian in a back five against Arsenal and with just two days to prepare for Fulham, the 55-year-old admits his selection problems have not eased.

"I don't know, the training session [on Friday] will give us some answers," said Mourinho. "[Chris] Smalling, [Phil] Jones, [Anthony] Martial, [Eric] Bailly [are doubts] and [Victor] Lindelof and Alexis [Sanchez], we don't even speak about them.

"We need answers and for sure we are going to play with players not with the maximum of their potential but players who will put themselves available for the team like Smalling did last match, like Jones at Southampton -- players in difficulty who go one step forward to try and help the team."