Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the best footballers in the world; it would not be too far a stretch to say he is one of the best footballers ever, with the Swede certainly ranking amongst the best strikers to have played the game.
The forward has been a behemoth for Manchester United this season, scoring 28 goals in all competitions, and, at times, carrying them towards a double that not many saw coming at the start of the season.
However, it was in taking United towards a Europa League semi-final that the Swede was felled, sustaining a cruciate knee ligament injury. The injury is likely to keep him out for the remainder of the season and beyond, with fans of United and the game disappointed to see the big man cut down.
Marcos Rojo also picked up a cruciate knee ligament injury after just over 20 minutes of his team’s game with Anderlecht. While so many cited Zlatan’s injury as the vital one, it is in fact the defender’s absence that will be felt more strongly.
First of all, there are a number of able replacements for the Swede up front. Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Chelsea in recent weeks displayed this, with the pace and youth of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard tearing the champions-elect apart.
Against Anderlecht too, Rashford took his chance to shine in the absence of Ibrahimovic, netting the winning goal with a fine touch and turn before finding the bottom corner. Rashford has often been pigeon-holed by Jose Mourinho into playing on the wing or not at all, but, with the injury to the veteran striker, now has his chance to show the manager what he can do.
In conjunction with this is the comparative injury problems United have at the back this season, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are already in the treatment room, with three of Manchester United’s senior centre-halves now sidelined.
Eric Bailly has been superb this season with his pace, power and ability, displaying what an astute buy he was. However, the centre-half is a young player that is relatively inexperienced, meaning it could breed difficulties if he is not paired with a senior player.
Rojo probably should be that senior player too, with his new found ability aiding United hugely throughout their current campaign.
Just think, someone took the time to make a Rojo montage and it doesn’t revolve around horrendous tackles and bad haircuts! What has the world come to?
It seems incredibly backwards to say that Rojo will be a bigger miss than Ibrahimovic. Of course, in certain elements the forward will be missed far more. However, when comparing the back-up in either division of the pitch, it seems Rojo’s injury leaves United with fewer options at the back.
Rojo has matured under Mourinho and, while many thought he may be one of the players leading the Mourinho exodus, he has shone.
Zlatan will be a huge miss, but Rojo could be an even bigger one. After all, who is going to make tackles like this for United?
Oh yeah, of course, Marouane Fellaini will do that.