Jose Mourinho found it “heartbreaking” to drop Ander Herrera and Scott McTominay against Burnley.
Manchester United got their season back on track with a 2-0 victory over the Clarets on Sunday, with Romelu Lukaku scoring twice.
Mourinho made a number of changes, with Marouane Fellaini starting in central midfield alongside Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic.
That forced summer signing Fred into the role of unused substitute, but Mourinho was more concerned with leaving out Herrera, who came on in the 76th minute, and McTominay, who was omitted from the squad altogether.
“The week was so good,” he said. “I felt so bad leaving out people like Ander Herrera and Scott McTominay. It was heartbreaking to leave them out of the team.”
But the Portuguese pointed out that his tactical gamble paid off.
“Fellaini is our best player in the air. In spite of Matic, Paul, they are also big guys, Marouane in the air is not just the best for us, probably one of the best in the Premier League.
“He was that cover in front of Victor and Smalling that made a comfortable game for them. There were lots of good performances but Fellaini was fundamental, together with Smalling and Lindelof.
“Luke Shaw had a good performance and there were many others, too.”