Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is facing a selection nightmare for the FA Cup quarter-final clash against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, as the 12-time winners of the competition prepare to face the Premier League leaders without a recognised striker. Captain Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial join the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the sidelines for the trip to west London due to a combination of injury and illness.
Already leg-weary amid a run of four games in 10 days, Mourinho now has wafer-thin options to lead his attack and continue his side's assault on an unlikely cup treble this season. Having already won the EFL Cup last month, the club could collect the FA Cup and Europa League before the end of the campaign and complete a feat last achieved by Gerard Houllier's Liverpool in 2001.
Following the nearly 5,000-mile round trip to Rostov, Mourinho could make as many as seven changes for the excursion to his former club Chelsea. Sergio Romero would be expected to drop out for David de Gea, while Antonio Valencia will be reinstalled at right-back. Matteo Darmian was also rested for the trip to Russia and is likely to play on the left ahead of Luke Shaw. Eric Bailly will return at centre-back.
Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind all played a part in the 1-1 draw in the Europa League on 9 March and represent the contenders to partner Bailly in the middle. Smalling is the favourite for the call, meaning United could start with the same centre-half pairing that began the 4-0 defeat to Chelsea last October – their last Premier League defeat.
Michael Carrick, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera have become a staple of United's midfield and will be reunited from the start in West London. But it is further forward where Mourinho faces his greatest selection quandary. Ibrahimovic will serve the first of his three-game ban for elbowing Bournemouth's Tyrone Mings, but an illness and injury crisis has deprived the Portuguese boss of his three alternatives in the attacking berth.
Rooney and Martial are both out injured while Rashford is sick. The quartet has contributed 45 goals this term, and there are few options available to Mourinho. Henrikh Mkhyitaryan has quickly become first choice since emerging from a troubling start to his Old Trafford career and would be expected to start as one of the front three.
Juan Mata is the highest scoring United player available, having netted nine times in all competitions, and will likely be called upon to face his former side. The Spain international was infamously offloaded by Mourinho just six months into his second spell at Chelsea, having become a peripheral member of the Blues first team.
In terms of leading the attack Mourinho is faced with two options. If he goes with power and aerial threat then Belgium's Marouane Fellaini will get the vote. Up against the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta, Fellaini will be able to exert his clear physical advantage, yet he will not offer much mobility in attack.
If Mourinho prefers to go with pace and movement, then Jesse Lingard will be the primary option. The England winger scored the winner in last season's FA Cup final but he has dropped down the pecking order this term, making just 25 appearances and netting four goals. Speaking last month, Mourinho hailed a recent improvement made by the 24-year-old, who he believes has raised his stands during his tenure.
"Training has more edge to it. Everyone wants to win. It doesn't matter the competition, we go in with a winning mentality," he said. "When you lose a training game you're down all day and getting wound up by the other team."