Jose banking on more Ibra inspiration
Zlatan extension ‘a formality’ after Swede stars again
Jose Mourinho is looking forward to working with Zlatan Ibrahimovic next season after the Manchester United manager said the hot-shot striker’s contract extension is a formality.
Ibrahimovic scored once and assisted on United’s other goals in a 3-1 Boxing Day win over Sunderland.
The 35-year-old arrived from Paris Saint-Germain in July on a one-year deal with an option for a further year, which Mourinho in November indicated United was keen to take up.
After another star showing from the Swede on Monday, Mourinho said the clause will be activated.
“It is activated in his brain and it is activated also in my decisions and in the owners’ and the board’s. So it is no problem,” said Mourinho.
Ibrahimovic’s strike against the Black Cats took his tally to 50 in all competitions for club and country during 2016, the year he retired from international duty with Sweden.
“I am not really surprised because he is a very intelligent guy and a very proud man,” Mourinho said.
“He decided to come to Manchester United and to the Premier League, to a club with the level of expectation of Manchester United, in the most difficult league in the world for a striker.
“When he decides to come here, it is because he knows he can do it.
“When we contacted him and he said, yes, he will come, I was sure that he was not coming here to leave the Premier League without proving himself.
“To leave the Premier League having failed at Manchester United? No way.
“When such a guy decided to come, I was completely clear that he would be ready and he is ready for more next season. He will be here again.”
Ibrahimovic set up Daley Blind to put United ahead in the 39th minute and then ran through to net from Paul Pogba’s pass before teeing up Henrikh Mkhitaryan for a spectacular scorpion-kick volley.
United secured a fourth straight Premier League win to extend its unbeaten streak in all competitions to 11 matches, in the absence of Wayne Rooney.
The United captain was left out of the lineup after injuring a thigh muscle in training.
Mourinho said the England international was doubtful for the visit of Middlesbrough on New Year’s Eve.
Asked if Rooney would be fit, Mourinho replied: “I don’t think so. I hope so. I would like him to be.
“He is always a player I would like to be available. Let’s see. It is not a big deal, but in four days — I have my doubts.”
Sunderland boss David Moyes had to settle for a loss in his first match back at Old Trafford since United fired him in April 2014.
The Scot’s team remains in the bottom three and the Wearsiders look destined for a survival fight come May.
However, Moyes said he enjoyed his return, despite the publicity that surrounded him in the build-up.
“When you are in football, what comes around goes around,” said Moyes, whose team replied through Fabio Borini’s superb late longrange strike.
“I knew that some day I would come up against the Manchester United players or work with some of them.
“I think that’s what happens when you’re in football. I enjoyed coming back. I have always enjoyed coming here. It’s a hard place to come, a hard place to get a result, and that showed today.”
From chasing titles at Old Trafford, Moyes finds himself in a relegation tussle with Sunderland, which is two points from safety.
“We are going to have to try to galvanize from within,” said the former Preston, Everton and Real Sociedad manager. “It is not a situation I am necessarily used to, but some of the players are used to it here.
“I hope together we can find a way of being good enough and strong enough in the games that really matter.
“Did this game matter? It definitely mattered.
“But there will be games maybe more so that will be important for us.” Mkhitaryan’s scorpion stunner a tail of instinct
To leave the Premier League having failed at United? No way. When such a guy decided to come, I was completely clear that he would be ready.” Jose Mourinho,
Henrikh Mkhitaryan said his spectacular scorpion kick in Manchester United’s 3-1 triumph against Sunderland on Monday was pure improvisation.
The Armenian playmaker sealed victory at Old Trafford when he lunged under Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s right-wing delivery and flicked past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford with his right heel.
The goal, reminiscent of former Colombia goalkeeper Rene Higuita’s outrageous scorpion-kick save against England in 1995, was allowed to stand despite an apparent offside.
“I was expecting the ball in front of me, but I was already in front, so I got it behind me,” Mkhitaryan told MUTV.
“So the only thing I could do was try to hit it with the back-heel. I did it and I succeeded.”
Mkhitaryan was a secondhalf substitute, having previously spent two games on the sidelines with an ankle injury sustained during United’s 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
That injury came just as the 27-year-old was establishing himself in United’s first team and manager Jose Mourinho was delighted to see the former Borussia Dortmund forward back in action.
“I have to watch back on TV because I didn’t yet, but it looked for me phenomenal,” said Mourinho.
“I think he scored in the right goal, the Stretford End, with the people very enthusiastic just behind.”
Henrikh Mkhitaryan expertly executes a scorpion kick to score Manchester United’s third goal against Sunderland in their English Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester on Monday. United won 3-1 to record its fourth straight victory.