In preparing to face the threat of Danish dangerman Christian Eriksen in the World Cup play-off, Martin O’Neill believes his players are entitled to take encouragement from how they coped in the recent past with other standout stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gareth Bale and the Bosnian duo of Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic could face a considerable battle for a starting spot when fit again but Jose Mourinho has stressed how important it will be for Manchester United to have the option of a striker he still regards as one of the world’s finest.
It is one of the great ironies of football, but also a tribute to the pragmatism of Jose Mourinho, that the Europa League, a competition once much derided by Manchester United fans from their heady perch, today holds the future of their club so firmly in its grasp.
Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney, strikers at contrasting stages of their Manchester United careers, emerged from the shadow cast by the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and invigorated their team’s hopes of an unlikely top-four Premier League finish.
Marcus Rashford made a compelling case for youth as Manchester United stumbled their way into the Europa League semi-finals, moving one step closer towards success in teh competition that is most likely to provide the club with a route back into the Champions League.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic felt like Benjamin Button, but it was more a case of Groundhog Day as far as Sunderland were concerned. Manchester United retain a two-pronged assault on Champions League qualification, but all the Wearside club has to look forward to are trips to some of football’s less celebrated destinations in the Championship next season.