Sport Soccer

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Marcus Rashford illness adds to Manchester United's striker woes

Marcus Rashford misses the trip to Chelsea through illness
Marcus Rashford misses the trip to Chelsea through illness

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has a striker headache for Monday night's FA Cup quarter-final at Chelsea after Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney joined the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the sidelines.

Press Association Sport understands Rashford is missing through illness, while Rooney picked up a knock in a training collision with Phil Jones on Sunday and Martial is also out injured.

The news leaves United with no recognised strikers in their travelling party.

Premier League leaders Chelsea, in contrast, have a fully fit squad for the last-eight tie.

Ibrahimovic's three-match domestic ban had looked to have opened the door for others to shine, with Rashford seemingly likely to lead the line at Stamford Bridge.

Just over 12 months ago few had heard of the teenager, who was not even listed in the programme on the day of his surprise debut against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League.

He marked that February night with two goals and continued on an upward trajectory for the rest of the campaign, scoring against Manchester City, winning the FA Cup, netting on his England debut and heading to Euro 2016.

Life has been harder this term, though, with defenders' closer attention and his frequent deployment out wide restricting the teenager to seven goals in all competitions.

Mourinho, speaking before the 19-year-old was struck down by illness, backed Rashford to be a far better player for what was always likely to be a "very difficult" second season in the spotlight.

"I knew that it would be a very difficult season for him after the season of the surprise," the Portuguese said of Rashford, who scored on his last start as centre-forward against Blackburn in the FA Cup fifth round.

"The season without pressure, the season where nobody demands, that nobody knows him, he comes in and makes an impact, he feels free. He is just a kid that is enjoying his football.

"The second season was always going to be a difficult one.

"I think the third season is going to be the good one again. The third season is one with more maturity, he can build on his experiences so I am sure the third season will be better than the second.

"The second season is the difficult one. It's the pressure, it's the people that knows him, it's the expectation.

"Is he a national team player? Is he in the line-up for the club? Should he go to the Euro 21 (European Under-21 Championship) or no? Having all these things around him doesn't give him an easy season, but he is a good kid, a good humble boy, he tries to learn with every experience.

"We had a nice conversation where he told that even in the dressing room at half-time he learns, so he is a good kid with a good mentality and now we have three matches without Zlatan."

Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, will not be given any time off despite his ban as Mourinho says he "has to play against Rostov" in Thursday's Europa League last-16 second leg.

The tie stands at 1-1 from the trip to Russia, with United having precious little downtime to focus on what Michael Carrick describes as a "massive" clash with Chelsea.

"I didn't play in the 4-0 - you can't say we've got a score to settle," the experienced midfielder said of October's humbling league loss at Stamford Bridge.

"There's plenty has happened over the years so, no, it's just a new game and a chance for us to go further in the competition and they will say the same.

"It is a massive game, a one-off game, so we're going down there looking forward to it."

Irish Independent Sport Star Awards

Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.

Press Association

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport