Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba fit for Man Utd as Jose Mourinho praises Romelu Lukaku
Manchester United have received a triple title boost with the return of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo to their first team squad for tomorrow’s clash with Newcastle.
Pogba has been out for 12 games with a torn hamstring while Ibrahimovic and Rojo have been absent since both ruptured knee ligaments in the Europa League quarter-final with Anderlecht in April.
Midfielder Pogba’s return is particularly significant because United’s form has suffered since he was injured early in the Champions League home clash with basel on September 12. Striker Romelu Lukaku has also suffered from the absence of Pogba’s creativity and hasn’t scored for seven games..
Mourinho said: “All three are selected for the match. You can clearly that there was Manchester Untied this season before Paul’s injury and then after Paul injury.
“There are qualities in our football that influence our approach in matches, with Pogba and without Pogba, that’s as simple as that. Paul is obviously not the same dimension as the others because it was not a surgical situation but it was also bad and it is good to have all three are back.”
Mourinho praised Ibrahimovic’s character for fighting back ahead of schedule from a career-threatening injury at the age of 37.
He added: “Last season we played Zlatan every minute almost until he was injured but this season we learned how to play without him but he’s still a very important player for us and of course we welcome him back.
“He’s shown incredible personality to fight such an important injury. We were saying all along that he will back in 2017 but being back on December 31 is one thing but to be back in mid-November is another.
“As an injured player he has been the same super pro that he is when he’s fit. So fantastic work from – the same as Marcos, who had an important injury too, and a big surgery. He played with the under 23s on Wednesday and he is fine, he is confident, and he is also ready.”
Of the three, Pogba is the most likely to start while Ibrahimovic and Rojo are set to be on the bench against Newcastle when United will be bidding to equal the club record of 38 home matches unbeaten in all competitions.
Mourinho said: “Zlatan has made a full recover but you cannot expect him to play 90 minutes or consecutive matches like he did all his career.
“Now he needs time to be back for his level, his fitness, his confidence, everything, his sharpness, but by the clinical point of view is fantastic to be ready.”
Asked if Ibrahimovic and Lukaku can play together, Mourinho said: “It is easy because good players can play together.”
And he was delighted that Lukaku ended his barren scoring run by setting a new Belgium international scoring run during the week.
He said: “He’s an iconic player for his country and for Romelu to be so young beating the record is fantastic. He is very young and he has 10 more years to play for his country so I can imagine the number of goals he will end up with is amazing.
Mourinho is not interested in equalling the unbeaten home run of 37 games by sir Alex Ferugosn’s team between 1998 and 2000 – he just wants to get back on the winning track after losing two of their last three Premier League games. They have yet to concede a goal at home in either the Premier League or Champions League this season.
He said: “We don’t play for records and if you concede a goal but we score two at least I’m happy.
“We defend as a team, we try to defend as a team and our numbers show exactly that collective effort, but the objective is to win matches at home, the objective is not to concede goals, of course if you don’t concede you are closer to win matches but that is not an obsession for us.
“The record means absolutely nothing for us. We lost the last match we need points, I know the way Newcastle plays and the way Rafa Benitez prepares his teams.”