Jose Mourinho admitted that he fears the worst over injuries to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo that could end their seasons and deal a crushing blow to Manchester United’s prospects of Europa League success and Champions League qualification.
With Ibrahimovic’s future at Old Trafford in doubt as he stalls over a new contract, it is not certain the Swedish striker will play for United again after his right knee locked nastily as he jumped for a header in stoppage time of his team’s 2-1 victory against Anderlecht.
The 35-year-old – who missed two glaring chances during arguably his worst performance in a United shirt - was able to walk gingerly off the pitch rather than needing a stretcher but pictures of the injury hinted at ligament damage. Despite his dismal display, though, the loss of United’s leading scorer would be an acute blow to Mourinho and place a huge onus on Marcus Rashford as well as offering a chance of a reprieve to forgotten man Wayne Rooney.
Rojo had been substituted in the first half after he tried to play on with an injury to his left leg before compounding the problem as he came across to challenge Frank Acheampong in the 22nd minute.
The Argentina defender’s absence would leave Mourinho with Eric Bailly as his only fit recognised centre-half and led the manager to call for the injured England pairing of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling to take a risk with their fitness in order to answer United’s defensive SOS. Mourinho hopes they could both be back within a fortnight.
“I want to wait but my feeling is not good for both [Ibrahimovic and Rojo],” Mourinho said. “I want to wait and be optimistic but I’m not.
“[Defensively] we have Daley Blind, he has experience in the position and I think it’s time for Jones and Smalling to be brave, to risk, because for the team they have to do everything. You cannot do miracles. Miracles I don’t expect but you have to try to do everything to accelerate the process. If it was me, I think it should be tomorrow. They cannot make miracles, even with a crazy mentality they cannot play Sunday [against Burnley], there are no miracles. But with a special spirit you can come back sooner than the expected – so rather than mid-May they can come back the beginning of May.”