The summer signing from Napoli has endured a difficult start to his Premier League career but had begun to cement his place at the heart of Chelsea’s defence in the absence of fellow new recruit Wesley Fofana.
Koulibaly completed 90 minutes against Brentford in midweek as he helped his side snuff out the threat of Ivan Toney and keep a creditable clean sheet in the goalless draw at the Gtech Community Stadium.
The 31-year-old, however, felt his knee after the game and wasn’t risked against United forcing Potter into another defensive reshuffle.
‘Just felt his knee at the back end of the game against Brentford,’ Potter told Sky Sports. ‘Not too bad but too soon for this one.’
Chelsea made three other changes including returns for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Raheem Sterling returning to an attack which struggled to create chances in midweek.
Potter added: ‘We lost Koulibaly so you can’t play him then you’ve got a couple of players returning who recovered against Brentford.
‘Thiago couldn’t play in midweek so it’s a case of managing the load and managing the games and picking a team that can be competitive and win the game, hopefully.’
United, meanwhile, without Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, made one change to the side which dispatched Tottenham in midweek with Christian Eriksen replacing Fred in central midfield.
Explaining the change, Erik ten Hag told MUTV: ‘It was a difficult one because the performance from Fred was magnificent.
‘But I also cannot ignore perfect performances over a long period from Christian Eriksen. [He] was even our best player in the first games of the season.
‘He will show his distribution, his cleverness to take the right positions and also he sees the passes, the final pass and he can score a goal. This team, I really happy with [fitness] that, they get fitter and fitter and they really work hard for it.
‘They do the right things in recovery and food and you can see you can play every game.’