Manchester United have been left reeling with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo facing long lay-offs after suffering cruciate knee ligament injuries.
Jose Mourinho’s worst fears have been realised after United confirmed on Saturday that the players sustained “significant knee-ligament damage” during Thursday’s Europa League tie against Anderlecht.
It is understood both injuries are cruciates, and while Ibrahimovic and Rojo will see specialists in the coming days to establish a more definite timeframe of how long they will be out, they are looking at between six and nine months on the sidelines.
Ibrahimovic’s injury plunges his future at Old Trafford into serious doubt, with the Swedish striker out of contract at the end of the season.
Rojo’s absence leaves Mourinho with just one fit recognised centre-half in Eric Bailly for the trip to Burnley on Sunday and will increase the pressure on other injury victims Chris Smalling and Phil Jones to answer the manager’s call to return to action sooner than planned. The injuries represents a severe set-back to United’s Europa League and top four hopes.
Ibrahimovic landed awkwardly on his right leg, locking his knee in the process, as he challenged for a header in stoppage time. Rojo had been substituted in the first half after hurting his left knee in a challenge before trying to play on and then compounding the problem as he tried to intercept Anderlecht winger Frank Acheampong.
In a statement, United said: “Detailed investigations on the injuries sustained by Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic during Thursday’s Europa League match have confirmed significant knee ligament damage in both players that requires specialist opinions over the coming days.
“Estimations of time to full recovery will only be possible once definitive treatment plans have been decided after these consultations.”
United, meanwhile, are cautiously optimistic about their chances of prising Eric Dier away from Tottenham Hotspur as they prepare a formal move for the £40 million-rated England international. Mourinho has identified Dier as a leading summer transfer target and is willing to give the 23-year-old the midfield role he wants after being used predominantly as a central defender by Mauricio Pochettino this season.