Chris Smalling says he enjoys a "very good relationship" with Jose Mourinho, despite the Manchester United manager's apparent criticism over the defender's fitness record.
Mourinho has appeared unimpressed by the number of games the England trio of Smalling, Luke Shaw and Phil Jones have missed this season, repeatedly querying if some of his players have the right mental attitude.
He also called directly on Smalling and Jones to "be brave" when they were sidelined during the Red Devils' demanding April schedule.
But Smalling insists there is no discord with Mourinho, telling Sky Sports News HQ: "We speak very closely with the manager and we have got a very good relationship.
"All throughout my injury we spoke about the process and when I would be back so it is good that the manager wants you because ultimately he has got that decision of whether you play or not.
"You can take positives from it in that the manager wants you out on that pitch. He wants you to represent him and be that fighter and warrior for him."
Smalling was, though, keen to make it clear he is as frustrated as anyone by his time out of the side.
"Obviously with a knee injury there are certain protocols that need to happen," he said.
"With the medical staff and with the coaches, we are pushing all the time. As players we don't want to be sitting on the touchline or watching the games in the directors' box. That is no fun.
"We have pushed as much as we can and I am glad to be back."
Mourinho believes an EFL Cup and Europa League double would represent good progress for the season, should United beat Ajax in the final of the continental competition on May 24.
But Smalling remains unhappy about missing out on the Premier League's top four.
"It does eat away at you," said the 27-year-old. "With where we are in the league now, it eats away at you that all those teams are above you and the points that you have dropped.
"We will learn a lot from this year to make sure that we don't get this same feeling again.
"E ven with the EFL Cup and the Europa League, we are far better than that position. We haven't shown that but next season we will definitely rectify that."