Jose Mourinho says he needs more goals from Wayne Rooney and the rest of his attackers if Manchester United’s Premier League campaign is to be revived.
The positives of progress to the Europa League knockout stages and EFL Cup semi-finals have been tempered somewhat by their league frustrations. Mourinho’s men sit an eye-watering 13 points off the lead and nine behind the top four just 14 matches into the season.
A lack of goal power has been key, managing just seven goals in their last eight league matches - as many as Alexis Sanchez has scored for Arsenal on his own during that period.
Mourinho has been pleased with his side’s displays but is well aware of the missing ingredient, highlighted by Rooney managing a solitary Premier League goal this term.
“With me, he is an attacking player,” the United boss said of his skipper, whose only goal came on the opening day at Bournemouth.
“In the national team, they can do with him what they want to do. In my team, he is an attacking player - he will play as a nine or a 10, or eventually coming from one of the sides.
“We expect more goals from him, yes, but we expect more goals from everyone in the team.
“Maybe Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) is the one but as the main striker it is normal that he has more goals scored. But all the other attacking players, we expect more goals from them.”
Anthony Martial has managed just one league goal, while Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford’s three-goal hauls make them the next top scorers behind Ibrahimovic.
The veteran Swede netted a seventh goal in six matches in all competitions as United reached the Europa League last 32 with a 2-0 win at Zorya Luhansk on Thursday. Ibrahimovic wrapped up victory in a way the team have been unable to in the league - showing a clinical edge that will be key on Sunday against a Tottenham side boasting the league’s tightest defence.
While underperforming in attack, United have done slightly better defensively given the number of injuries. Eric Bailly’s return to action after six weeks out with a knee injury is a timely boost ahead of the festive period, but Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling remain absent.
Meanwhile Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino insists Jose Mourinho is still special despite his difficulties.
“For me, he is the Special One and will always be the Special One,” Pochettino said. “He was a reference when I started my career at Espanyol. He was always very kind to me and opened his door. I always assess my colleagues and try to be objective - I really believe he is one of the best.”
Pochettino was reportedly on the shortlist to replace Louis van Gaal at United last summer but Mourinho was chosen and instead the Argentinian signed a new five-year contract at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen admits the players were relieved when Pochettino committed his future to the club.
“When the rumours were getting bigger we were always worried, especially with this manager,” Vertonghen said.
“If I was Man United, I would have tried to take him from us, especially when you see what he can do to a team. The team is very happy he stayed.”
Toby Alderweireld is in line to make his first start in eight weeks following a knee problem. The defender came off the bench in the second half of Spurs’ Champions League victory over CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.
“We need to decide tomorrow if he is in good form to play 90 minutes but we are happy after two months out how he came back,”
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