Mousa Dembele 'feeling much better' after overcoming injury problems
LONDON -- Mousa Dembele hopes he has put his injury problems behind him but the Tottenham midfielder is not sure if he is ready to complete 90 minutes at Manchester United on Saturday.
Dembele played the final 20 minutes in his first appearance in over a month in Wednesday's 3-2 defeat to West Ham in the Carabao Cup and he has not started a league game since Spurs' draw with Burnley in August.
The Belgium international suffers from a persistent pain in his left foot, despite surgery on the problem in May, and he has also had ankle and hip injuries in the past month. He has returned to full training and hopes he has made a fresh start.
"Now is the beginning but I started training well and we will see how it goes," Dembele said. "I'm feeling much better. First it was my ankle and then I came back and it was my hip, so a bit of bad luck but I feel good. I started the season well but then with the injury it made it a bit... But I will be back."
Asked if he had to manage his injuries on a day-to-day basis, he said: "No, no it's much better than before. I worked hard, but it's much better and I hope I will get to my level quickly. I have started training again and it's no problem."
But he stopped short of saying he was ready for 90 minutes in Saturday's lunchtime kickoff at Old Trafford, hesitating and saying only: "I feel good."
A year ago, at the start of last season, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino joked that the team "did not exist" without Dembele, who was missing through suspension and injuries.
This year though, Spurs have found a way to play without the 30-year-old and Victor Wanyama, last year's starting central midfield pair, and they go to United without top-scorer Harry Kane who is missing with a minor hamstring strain.
Dembele, however, said the squad is better equipped to cope this season.
"Until now the last three years every year we became better. We have a bigger squad with more competition for places and everyone is playing well, everyone can play. Even if there are 4-5 injuries, the other guys come in and play well. We can rotate, we have good players, so that's why I think we are better than last year," he said.
"Last year so many games we were up there mentally as well but we don't give things away. Today was not good but the last games were very good."
Harry Winks has been the biggest beneficiary of Dembele's fitness woes.
"He's very good, everyone knows, it's not been a surprise for us that he can play and he plays very well so this is something very good for the team," Dembele said of Winks.
"He is doing well, everyone who plays well deserves is chance but in every position there is some good competition.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.