Considering how reluctant Louis van Gaal was to drop Wayne Rooney or strengthen in several key areas when it came to his second season in charge at Manchester United, fans were unsure of what to expect when Jose Mourinho took charge of the club in May. The Portuguese presented a mellower attitude at first, obviously keen to make a good impression after the events that saw him lose his job as Chelsea manager last December after the Blues’ terrible run of form. He didn’t jettison several players that many felt sure would be sold, either; for example, Juan Mata and Daley Blind both reportedly impressed their manager with their effort, application and willingness to adapt to his plans. As such, it was difficult to know what to expect of Mourinho when it came to United’s starting XI.
Wayne Rooney should stand as a good example to his teammates of a player previously deemed undroppable who hasn’t touched United’s starting XI in four games, and isn’t certain to start against Fenerbahce in the Europa League tonight. Whilst the £89m United paid for Paul Pogba should protect the Frenchman from the chop, given the need to give him time to acclimatise to English football again and his obvious talent, others aren’t likely to be given as much leeway.
When asked about whether there were any ‘untouchable’ members in this United side during Wednesday’s pre-match press conference, Mourinho offered this:
“’Untouchable’ in our team has to be the spirit, the commitment, the pride, the commitment to the club, respect to the fans. That has to be untouchable, not the players.”
As Rooney can testify, reputation means little if you aren’t delivering in this United side, and that might make Zlatan Ibrahimovic a little more susceptible to danger than the Swede might have initially anticipated after moving from Paris Saint Germain this summer. After a solid start, Ibrahimovic has only scored one goal in his last seven games, including none in his last four Premier League appearances. He passed up several highly presentable opportunities during United’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Stoke before the international break, and sent his team’s only decent opportunity against Liverpool this past Monday wildly off mark with his header from Pogba’s deep cross. It’s not just his finishing that has caused issues; his touch, awareness and hold-up play were terrible at Anfield earlier this week, and with Marcus Rashford having already shown his capabilities as a striker, and Rooney desperate to impress after being dropped, Ibrahimovic may need to start finding the net soon if he wishes to stay in his manager’s starting XI.