Manchester United already knew they would be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they face Arsenal on Saturday, but there is possibly more bad news on the horizon and it may mean that Jose Mourinho has to completely change his attacking approach.
According to The Telegraph, United could be without another striker on Saturday after Wayne Rooney withdrew from the England squad with what is described as a ‘minor’ injury, although they note that the player will need to be assessed by his club before a decision is made on whether he will face Arsenal in Saturday’s early kick off.
United haven’t been scoring many this season but against Swansea they appeared to finally hit their rhythm with Zlatan up top, scoring two goals and Rooney on the left, assisting all 3 goals.
The absences of Zlatan and potentially Rooney is of course not good news for Manchester United, but what it does do it represent is a chance for some young blood to play.
Marcus Rashford – a player who burst onto the scene with an excellent brace against Arsenal at Old Trafford last season, he is a young player whose opportunities have been very limited so far this season under Jose Mourinho. When he has featured, it has tended to be on the wings as Zlatan’s presence has restricted his game time through the middle.
There’s also Anthony Martial. A player who can play on the left or through the middle, both positions that Rooney and Zlatan played against Swansea and after the club spent so much money on Martial, it is important they find a way to get the best out of him.
A front three including Rashford and Martial is likely to strike fear into Arsenal’s defenders, probably just as much as the presence of Rooney and Zlatan would. Yes the more experienced duo have been there and done it, but the sheer pace and bravery of players like Rashford make them very hard to play against.
Arsenal are likely to line up with Mustafi and Koscielny at the back, a defensive duo that will be hard to break down no matter who United select as their striker. An area where the home side should be looking to target is down the left hand side. With Hector Bellerin set to miss the game through injury, Arsenal will have a weakened right hand side, and a direct, quick player on the left is likely to be the best approach to take. The Gunners are likely to select Carl Jenkinson, a player who when fully fit is not the best and he’s only played a handful of first team minutes since a long term injury early in the year.
So, could Rooney’s absence actually be a good thing? Allowing United to fully exploit the Gunners weak right hand side with the direct options of Martial and / or Rashford.