Football: Zlatan Ibrahimovic to boost Man United's firepower against Everton

Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates after scoring a goal during the Uefa Europa League round of 16 football match between Rostov and Manchester United.
Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates after scoring a goal during the Uefa Europa League round of 16 football match between Rostov and Manchester United. PHOTO: AFP

Swede available for game against Everton as Mourinho aims to lift United out of doldrums

LONDON • Zlatan Ibrahimovic's return from suspension may be just the lift that Manchester United need as they attempt to improve their Premier League home form against Everton today.

The former Paris Saint-Germain striker, United's leading scorer this season, has missed three domestic matches through suspension - in which time Jose Mourinho's team have been knocked out of the FA Cup and lost ground in the race for a top-four finish.

The Swede was certainly missed on Saturday as United drew at home in the league for the eighth time this season, as they were held 0-0 by West Bromwich Albion.

Time after time, Mourinho's men have dominated possession at Old Trafford against visiting teams, yet failed to assert their superiority.

On Saturday, United were without Ibrahimovic, Ander Herrera, who was suspended, and injury victims Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Nonetheless, it was still a hugely disappointing display.

Mourinho was particularly angry and may make changes beyond bringing back Ibrahimovic today.

If there is no sign of improvement in Premier League form against Everton or at Sunderland on Sunday, Mourinho has indicated that he will put his focus on winning the Europa League and securing a Champions League place that way.

"After Sunderland, the Europa League comes, and then I don't know," he said. "Then, it's possible that you see me play in the Premier League with a team where I'm going to protect the players that I consider fundamental for the Europa League.

"But only if the results in the next matches put us in a situation where mathematically, it becomes almost impossible to do it."

Midfielder Pogba should return against Everton, having been able to take part in a training session on the pitch after Saturday's match.

Herrera is also available after his ban, but Mata, Smalling and Jones will be longer-term absentees; the Spanish winger is expected to miss the remainder of the season following groin surgery last week.

Everton are seeking improvement themselves, having been beaten 3-1 at Liverpool in Saturday's Merseyside derby.

Ronald Koeman did say that he was proud of his team's performance. But they have played much better than that over the last three months, losing just two of their last 13 league matches and looking comfortable in seventh place.

Koeman is short of defensive options, with Seamus Coleman recovering from a broken leg and Ramiro Funes Mori set to miss the final weeks of the season after suffering a knee injury while playing for Argentina.

A back three of Matthew Pennington, Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka did not work too well at Anfield, but Koeman may have to stick with that set-up.

"We won't be taking too many positives from Saturday, but we've got a big game on Tuesday," said Jagielka.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2017, with the headline 'Zlatan to boost firepower'. Print Edition | Subscribe