Manchester United are facing up to a striker crisis on the eve of their FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea, with Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial all absent from the team train down to London on Sunday.
ith Zlatan Ibrahimovic suspended, United manager Jose Mourinho faces a huge selection dilemma ahead of his return to his former club, with a makeshift attacking line now certain to take centre-stage at Stamford Bridge.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan may be drafted into fill the void at the spearhead of the United team, with Marouane Fellaini also a contender be used as a battering-ram forward in what is certain to be a high-octane battle against the Premier League leaders.
Mourinho has already bemoaned his side’s tough fixture schedule ahead of the FA Cup clash, with last Thursday’s Europa League tie against FC Rostov in Russia hardly helping his pre-match preparations.
Now he has been hit by an injury nightmare that is adding to his concerns over burnout for his players in a season when they have been targeting success in four major competitions.
Mourinho spiced up the tension ahead of the Chelsea tie with his pre-match comments, as he suggested the style of play that is proving to be so successful for Antonio Conte as Blues boss was ridiculed when he was in charge at the club.
“I’m not surprised (by Chelsea’s success). I’m surprised with the way they play,” he said. “I’m surprised because I thought they were demanding a different kind of football.
“I think they are very good defensively and I think they have fantastic players to be a counter-attack team and to kill opponents with three or four players.”
While he has vowed to field a strong team as he makes his second return to Stamford Bridge since he was sacked as Chelsea manager in December 2015, the injury crisis afflicting his team will severely limit his options.
There may be an option to bring one of Rooney, Rashford or Martial down to London on Monday if they respond to treatment, but it appears that all three will be absent for a game that now appears to be heavily weighted in Chelsea’s favour.