Jose Mourinho has suggested Zlatan Ibrahimovic can play in the no. 10 role in his Manchester United team.
The striker, who also wears the number 10 shirt, started Wednesday’s Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat at Bristol City as the lone striker, before moving into the deeper attacking position for a short period following Romelu Lukaku’s introduction as a substitute in the second half.
The Swede, who wore the captain’s armband at Ashton Gate, marked his first start of the season, since recovering from a serious knee injury, by scoring his first Reds goal since April with a deflected free-kick to draw United level in the tie before being withdrawn in the 69th minute.
Mourinho has utilised several players in the no.10 position, operating just behind the main striker, when setting his team out in a 4-2-3-1 formation this season – including Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard, who has flourished in the role in recent weeks.
Speaking ahead of United’s trip to Leicester City on Saturday, Mourinho was asked whether he would consider playing Ibrahimovic in that position.
“He played the last match [against Bristol City] in that period in the second half where we replaced Daley Blind with Lukaku and Lukaku played no.9 and Zlatan played no.10,” the boss said at his pre-match press conference at the Aon Training Complex.
“I know that was in the period where his energy was going down but, obviously, there are spaces where a no.10 plays and spaces where Ibrahimovic, even when he was clearly a no.9, feels comfortable to play. So, yes, why not?”
United’s match at the King Power Stadium is the first of four Premier League games in the space of just nine games for the Reds – with a Boxing Day clash against Burnley and home game against Southampton to come before travelling to Everton on New Year’s Day.
Mourinho has mainly used Lukaku, who has only missed September’s Carabao Cup third-round tie against Burton Albion, as the attacking spearhead this season but may be tempted to make full use of his squad with the games coming thick and fast over the festive period.
Although the boss feels Ibrahimovic’s current fitness might not be at the level for him to complete a full game, he’s suggested we might be seeing more of last season’s top scorer in the coming weeks.
“Yes, he’s an option,” added Jose. “He played one hour [against Bristol City] or a bit more. But he could obviously be an option to start a match. Ninety minutes is probably too much – it depends on the match. But I think, yes, he’s ready to start.”