Zlatan Ibrahimovic: We want to to kill every game we play
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has that warned Manchester United must rediscover their ruthless streak if they are going to have any hope of challenging for a top-four place as manager Jose Mourinho admits he is worried about the lack of goals from Wayne Rooney.
Rooney, who is just two short of surpassing Bobby Charlton’s United goalscoring record, has scored just once in the league this season, against Bournemouth on the opening day.
Although Mourinho stressed that all of his attacking players have been guilty of squandering chances, he expects more from the England captain.
United secured their place in the last 32 of the Europa League with an efficient 2-0 away win over Zorya on Thursday, but have been far less clinical in the Premier League, a failing that has caused them to draw too many games they should have won.
This means Mourinho’s side are already nine points adrift of a Champions League place heading into this weekend’s tantalising clash with fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and could drop to 11th if they lose on Sunday.
Neither the Portuguese, nor his players, would discuss whether a failure to beat Spurs would effectively end United’s hopes of a top-four finish, but after just one win in eight in the league, they cannot afford to lose more ground on the teams challenging for the top four.
Ibrahimovic, though, is hoping the victory in Ukraine, where he scored a nerve-settling second goal after Henrikh Mkhitaryan had given United the lead, is a positive sign of things to come as they look to stabilise a shaky league campaign.
“We have created many chances and sometimes you can win 1-0,” said Ibrahimovic, who scored his 13th goal of the season against Zorya. “But I think we have learned now that we have to score more than one goal to make sure we get the three points.
“You need to close [the game] at 1-0, which you can do. You don’t need to win 4-0 every week, but that hasn’t happened yet. Hopefully we can start killing teams off with a second goal. We want to kill every game we play.
“As long as you create the chances, you will eventually score. I think we are performing very good [sic]. The team has got a good balance, we have had some unlucky games and some games where we made simple mistakes to concede a goal, but most of our game is good.
“So, if we can just get a couple of wins in a row, it would give us even more confidence. We are not playing badly.”
Ibrahimovic is not a player who ever seems low on confidence and when it was pointed out to him that the Europa League final will be played in Stockholm next May, he replied: “That is what we are aiming for. Beside my statue, we will get a trophy.”
In truth, the former Sweden international has also missed plenty of chances in recent week, some of which have been costly, but he has been prolific compared to Rooney.
Having been bruised – albeit rather harshly - by recent criticism of his decision to drink into the early hours of the morning while on international duty last month, Rooney continues to look out of sorts in a United shirt.
He has managed only three goals in his last 24 appearances for club and country and, despite starting against Zorya, he was substituted after an hour.
Mourinho still believes Rooney has a future at United beyond the end of this season, but once again accused England of ruining his captain’s natural game by asking him to play in a deeper role.
“With me, he is an attacking player,” said Mourinho. “In the national team, they can do with him what they want to do.
"In the national team he is their player, he is not my player. If they want to play him right-back, they can play him right-back. It's not my problem.
"In my team, he is an attacking player - he will play as a nine or a 10, or eventually coming from one of the sides.
"So as an attacking player, normally he scores more goals. He scored a couple, I think at Fenerbahce and one in the Premier League.
"We expect more goals from him, yes, but we expect more goals from everyone in the team.
"Maybe Zlatan is the one [who is scoring] but as the main striker it is normal that he has more goals. But all the other attacking players, we expect more goals from them."
Mourinho remains convinced his team have been playing far better than their league position suggests.
“We are not scoring enough goals for the football we play,” Mourinho added. “We can say that, against Zorya, I don't remember their goalkeeper made a lot of saves. I don't think he made any phenomenal saves.
"When we play against other teams in the Premier League, normally they are the man of the match. They save everything. Goals make a huge difference so we need to score more goals.
"I think the team is playing very well. Probably the Ukrainian fans did not see the best Manchester United of the season. Because the best Manchester United of the season was the team that played the last four, five or six matches in the Premier League, and managed one victory and four or five draws. We are playing very, very well, but we need more goals."
Mourinho has also revealed that England defender Chris Smalling is unlikely to play before Christmas as he continues his recovery from a foot injury.