The phrase “one man team” gets branded around quite bit up. From Bryan Robson arriving late in the box – fictional Roy of the Rovers style – to Cristiano Ronaldo dancing around yet another helpless fullback – we’ve heard that statement a few times over the years. Now, the unthinkable has just happened. United are now without their talisman, leading scorer and bruised elbow extraordinaire Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who accepted the FA charge of violet conduct for his challenge on Tyrone Mings in the 1-1 draw with Bournemouth at the weekend and will now miss three matches.
Mings had stamped on Ibrahimovic a minute earlier in what was a barmy game from start to finish. The Bournemouth centre half has appealed his charge and could face a lengthy ban if found guilty. Ibrahimovic will miss the next three domestic matches against Chelsea in the FA Cup, Middlesborough and WBA – both in the league as Jose Mourinho looks to try and replace the man who has scored a third of all United’s goals this season.
With United travelling to league leaders Chelsea on Monday, Mourinho will be fully aware of the task at hand – especially considering the 4-0 thumping dished out earlier on in the campaign. However, this gives the likes of Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford a chance to step up to the plate.
Ibrahimovic had a stinker on Saturday, missing a penalty and a sitter 2 yards from goal. It happens to all great players and you usually need someone else to step up and make a difference. Sadly, for United, this wasn’t to be and it was yet another frustrating draw in a mediocre performance, which promised a thumping early on. There has been too many afternoons like this at Old Trafford this season – with Ibrahimovic sometimes saving the day. Now is the time for others to step up and fill the goal void in between the Europa League matches against FC Rostov.
Marcus Rashford – United’s wonderkid. Rashford was extremely unlucky to find himself playing second fiddle, even to a player as good as Ibrahimovic, early in the season after an explosive debut campaign. His introduction at West Ham was a game changer as the youngster made the opener for Juan Mata to cooly slot home. His pace is blistering and he has the arrogance and ability to dribble past experienced full backs with ease. He will have a chance to lead the line in the games coming up but will have to show a better return in front of goal as he hasn’t scored in the league since September.
Anthony Martial – All eyes are on the young Frenchman in anticipation for him to burst into action and rekindle some of that form from last season. There has been glimpses, but not enough for the ridiculous talent that he possesses. He will surely operate on the left hand side, rather than through the middle – however, Martial will most likely move to a number nine as he evolves throughout his career. More prolific than Rashford in front of goal, United’s number 11 will want to get a little closer to his seventeen goals he notched up last term as he is currently falling ten short. There has been suggestions of burn out at the Euros from Didier Deschamps, but issues in his private life could well have caused issues on the field.
Wayne Rooney – The fallen hero. Time catches up with us all. Having broken the goalscoring record, it is unsure as to whether Rooney will still be at United next season. Paul Scholes has hinted at a possible departure if the situation stays the same, then it would be difficult for the club captain to remain at United. There has been links with China and a move back to Everton – but it is still uncertain as to where he be next season. Having played against Bournemouth, Rooney will expect to play some part in the fixtures as a number ten – behind Marcus Rashford, but this of course depends on the fitness of first choice Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
One man team? Over to you United…