Jose Mourinho has insisted that it is impossible to leave Zlatan Ibrahimovic out of Manchester United's starting lineup amid a rich vein of scoring form. The experienced Swedish striker, who arrived at Old Trafford on a free transfer in July after running down his contract at Paris Saint-Germain, has been in stellar form of late, bouncing back from a drought of six matches without a goal by notching eight times in as many outings.
Ibrahimovic has certainly shocked many with his durability so far this season. Discounting an automatic one-match suspension for collecting five yellow cards that ruled him out of a 1-1 draw with Arsenal and cup games against Northampton Town and Fenerbahce in which he was rested, the evergreen 35-year-old has been a virtual ever-present with 24 appearances to his name before Christmas.
Ibrahimovic's advancing years may provoke concerns that such heavy involvement could lead to injury. However, Mourinho is perfectly content to start him once again during Saturday's (17 December) Premier League meeting with West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns safe in the knowledge that United then enjoy a nine-day break before a busy festive period that includes a Boxing Day visit from struggling Sunderland and another home clash with Middlesbrough.
The Red Devils begin 2017 with a trip to West Ham United before an FA Cup third-round tie against Jaap Stam's Reading and the first instalment of their two-legged EFL Cup semi-final against Hull City.
"Tomorrow is a last effort and then they will have a week without football," Mourinho was quoted as saying by Sky Sports at a pre-match press conference on Friday. "That week is a week that my players need, especially a guy like him – a striker. Sometimes in other positions you can protect yourself a little bit more with experience and with position but a striker is one of the impossible positions where you cannot hide.
"So he is doing phenomenal. Tomorrow he is going to play again but obviously he cannot play matches. I must give him a rest. But as our target striker we can say that he is the only one and the way we normally play we need him."
With next month's transfer window quickly approaching, Mourinho inevitably faced questions regarding his January plans. However, the Portuguese reiterated his faith in the current squad and remained coy on both potential incomings and departures amid reports that Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay could both be sold to Everton.
"I'm quiet and calm. I'll see what happens," he added. "I like to keep my squad the same but I repeat, as a manager I never feel that I have the right to stop people to try to be happier and to try to give a different direction to their careers.
"If the conditions are right for the club, then we will have to react. Let's see what happens, but at the moment if you ask me if I am waiting for someone to be here on 1 January, not at all. I like my squad, I trust my squad."