Attack still in Red Devils' dna

Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in action against Newcastle last Saturday after coming off the bench. The Swede is unlikely to start against Brighton but will be the perfect weapon to bring on.
Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in action against Newcastle last Saturday after coming off the bench. The Swede is unlikely to start against Brighton but will be the perfect weapon to bring on.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Pogba, Ibrahimovic to get more game time to build their fitness as Mourinho defends style

LONDON • Manchester United legend Eric Cantona criticised their style of play yesterday, saying that he would prefer that his former team play attacking football like table-toppers Manchester City.

United manager Jose Mourinho hit back at his press conference ahead of today's Premier League home game against Brighton, saying: "I don't know who is more ambitious than us. We played against Newcastle last week with (attacking players like) (Paul) Pogba, (Marcus) Rashford, (Anthony) Martial, (Juan) Mata, (Romelu) Lukaku."

Pogba was particularly impressive in United's attack, returning after more than two months out with a hamstring injury by scoring a goal and recording an assist during the 4-1 win at Old Trafford last week.

Mourinho has confirmed that the Frenchman will provide the much-needed firepower again today, but he will not be able to play more than 70 minutes.

"Paul is still in this process where he cannot reach the fatigue limit," the Portuguese said, according to BBC Sport. "He cannot go more than 65 to 70 minutes because that's when fatigue normally arrives and, with so many matches consecutively, we need to protect such an important player for us."

The United manager added that striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will also feature today, his third match in a row following a career-threatening knee injury.

"On the pitch, he's another option for us and he's an option of quality," Mourinho said of the Swede who had been out for around seven months prior to the Magpies game.

"His physicality and his intelligence, the way he moves, the way he plays. But he needs time, he is not ready (to start)."

HANDY OFF THE BENCH

He's another option for us... His physicality and his intelligence, the way he moves, the way he plays. But he needs time, he is not ready.

 JOSE MOURINHO, United manager, on striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is working his way back to full fitness after seven months out with knee ligament damage.

Mourinho also played down concerns over the eight-point gap leaders City have over United.

"We cannot think about the gap to City. We just have to focus on ourselves in matches," he said.

"In this moment, we haven't yet reached 50 per cent of the season so let's be calm."

However, he admitted that he is "worried" that Marouane Fellaini will leave, with the Belgian's contract due to expire in the summer.

The midfielder is understood to want a longer-term contract than the one currently being offered by the Old Trafford board and rejected one offer, believed to be for two years, in September.

"It's a discussion between the player and the board," Mourinho said, adding that "the decisions are not in my control".

Brighton manager Chris Hughton said that his team must perform at a very high level and be fearless if they are to end United's unbeaten home record.

United's last loss at Old Trafford was a defeat by City on Sept 10 last year.

However, Hughton is hopeful of Brighton extending their five-game unbeaten run in the league.

"Of course we can beat them, but we need to play to a very high level and get a bit of luck as well - you always need that at the big clubs. You can't go there with fear," he said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2017, with the headline 'Attack still in Red Devils' dna'. Print Edition | Subscribe