Tuesday 21 November 2017

'He is creating a lot of chances and missing a lot goals': Mourinho finally admits Ibrahimovic is struggling

Frusration is the name of the game for Zlatan Ibrahimovic as yet another chance goes abegging. Photo: Reuters
Frusration is the name of the game for Zlatan Ibrahimovic as yet another chance goes abegging. Photo: Reuters

Luke Edwards

Jose Mourinho has plenty of problems to contend with as Manchester United's season continues to underwhelm and he has finally admitted that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of them.

Ibrahimovic's poor form in front of goal - he has scored just once in 11 games - has not escaped criticism from the manager, but at least he believes his misfiring striker has the personality to handle the pressure he is under.

United's 2-1 defeat by Fenerbahce on Thursday means they are now struggling in both European and domestic competitions and travel to Swansea tomorrow in desperate need of a win.

Mourinho has suffered a worse start to the season than either the derided Louis van Gaal or David Moyes and his side have not scored for three successive Premier League games. At the age of 35, Ibrahimovic has looked increasingly laboured and there have been suggestions he is finding the pace of English football a problem.

"Zlatan is playing well for the team," said Mourinho, typical of the language reserved for a forward who cannot score.

"He's creating a lot of chances and missing a lot of goals. If I remember Stoke, Liverpool, Chelsea, Burnley, he missed a lot of goals, but he was fantastic in his dynamic, his working, his building up for the team, he was fantastic.

"I cannot say the same (against Fenerbahce). But in every match in the Premier League, even when not scoring goals he's being fantastic.

"His attitude is always brilliant. He's not a guy afraid of his responsibility, so no problem at all."

The worrying thing for Mourinho is that Wayne Rooney, the like-for-like replacement in the centre-forward role, has also been struggling in front of goal, although he did at least end his drought with a fantastic strike in Istanbul. It was his first goal since the start of August.

"Maybe it's also a key point in terms of his self-confidence," Mourinho said.

The Manchester United manager is not enjoying the criticism he is attracting, particularly as there are those who are starting to wonder whether he is the same manager he was at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

Coupled with his own admission that he has found living away from his family in Manchester difficult, the 53-year-old has much to do to prove the doubters wrong.

Not that he is short of excuses, pointing out that his team's problems in defence are mainly caused by injuries to Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling, rather than his inability to organise them. That has forced United to play Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo in the middle of the back four.

"You never saw a Jose Mourinho team play with two left-backs as central defenders," he replied when his defensive record at United was questioned.

"I cannot be critical of the boys because they do what they can. They try their best."

United's search for a win is not going to be helped by the likely absence of Paul Pogba tomorrow.

The France international was brutally taken out by Fenerbahce's midfielder Souza, with a knee into his upper thigh, and was forced to come off after just half an hour in Istanbul. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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