Sunday 17 December 2017

How will Manchester United line up without Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Here are Mourinho's options

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford
Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford

Ben Burrows

Jose Mourinho has been dealt a significant blow after Zlatan Ibrahimovic accepted a Football Assocation charge for violent conduct.

The Manchester United striker caught Bournemouth's Tyrone Mings with his elbow, an incident referee Kevin Friend didn't deem worthy of a booking during the game.

The Swede will now miss United's next three domestic matches - the crucial FA Cup quarter-final with Chelsea on Monday before Premier League clashes with Middlesbrough and West Brom in April.

The 25-goal top scorer leaves a gaping hole in United's first-choice XI - so how will Mourinho fill it? Here are some options.

Marcus Rashford through the middle

United's most precocious youngster has been itching for this chance all season long and will be anxious to prove he is indeed the man to step into the Swede's sizeable shoes.

United fans know he can do it - the 19-year-old scored eight goals in just 18 appearances in a breakout first campaign last term - and will hope he can do so again.

It remains to be seen whether Mourinho really sees him as a true No.9 though or more useful cutting inside from either flank.

Anthony Martial as the No.9

Much like Rashford, United know the Frenchman also has what it takes to deliver when deployed in the team's most important position.

The 21-year-old helped himself to 17 goals in all competitions last season, many of which came from a more central starting point rather than from the left flank where he has been more often used this time around.

Despite a recent resurgence Martial is yet to nail down a starting place in Mourinho's first XI with Zlatan's absence perhaps the stroke of fortune he has been longing for.

Manchester United's Anthony Martial says he is happy at the club

Both together

Mourinho went with two up top against Bournemouth at the weekend and had the Cherries on the rack in a frenetic first 20 minutes at Old Trafford.

Captain Wayne Rooney joined Ibrahimovic in a front two then but what about the possibility of playing the club's two most explosive and exciting players together?

It sounds like something the fans would go for that's for sure.

Rooney's last hurrah

The Chinese Super League transfer window has been and gone meaning the United skipper will be staying at Old Trafford for the remainder of the campaign whatever happens.

Whether he stays beyond that seems less and less likely by the day, but perhaps the next three matches could give Rooney the opportunity to show Mourinho what he's been missing while he's been sat on the periphery over the last few months.

Rooney - albeit a much younger, hungrier version - has done some of his finest work as United's sole front man - is there some life in the old dog yet? We could find out.

Independent News Service

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