Belfast Telegraph

'Phenomenal' Zlatan Ibrahimovic impressing Man Utd boss Jose Mourinho

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will spearhead Manchester United's attack this evening as Jose Mourinho says the "phenomenal" striker is almost undroppable.

An unerring knack of finding the net and a medal-laden CV led to much excitement around Old Trafford when the 35-year-old eventually signed in the summer.

However, few expected Ibrahimovic to have such an impact at United, given his advancing years and their punishing fixture schedule.

The striker has featured in 24 of United's 26 matches this term but shown few ill effects, scoring his 14th goal of the campaign in Wednesday's 2-1 win at Crystal Palace.

Asked if it was almost impossible to leave Ibrahimovic out, Mourinho said: "It is, it is.

"But (Saturday) is the last effort and then they will have a week without football and that week is a week that my players they need, especially a guy like him, a striker.

"Sometimes in other positions you can hide yourself a little bit more, you can protect yourself with experience, with position.

"As a striker, I think it's one of the impossible positions where you can hide.

"He is doing phenomenal. (Saturday) he is going to play again, then one week to rest."

The break between the trip to West Brom and Boxing Day clash with Sunderland will be welcome respite for a player Mourinho will handle intelligently during the festive period and beyond.

"I am not surprised. I am not surprised at all," the Portuguese said of Ibrahimovic's impact.

"I knew even by the physical point of view he could resist, but obviously he cannot play 60 matches. I must give him a rest.

"I must let him out again. He was suspended against Arsenal so that game he didn't play.

"In some matches in the Europa League he was on the bench. He was on the bench also against Northampton, so now and again I will find a way to give him a rest.

"But as our target striker, we can say that he is the only one and the way we normally play we need him."

Ibrahimovic could be joined in the starting line-up at West Brom by Chris Smalling after the England defender recovered from a foot complaint.

Out since October 23, his return is a welcome boost to a defence without Eric Bailly due to a knee injury sustained in midweek.

"I don't know how long," Mourinho said when asked about the severity of the problem. "No surgery.

"By the movement on the pitch we thought meniscus but no. It's a question to see the evolution.

"Hopefully we have him for these last two matches at home."

Bailly will join Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Luke Shaw on the sidelines. Antonio Valencia returns from suspension at the Hawthorns.


From Belfast Telegraph