Time for Zlatan-less United to step up
Mourinho must coax the best out of his forwards in the absence of the suspended Ibrahimovic
Envious glances will be cast in Antonio Conte's direction tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Jose Mourinho has grounds for allowing his green-eyed monster to resurface.
Chelsea are everything that he had hoped Manchester United would become.
Returning to his former Stamford Bridge stomping ground once more will remind him exactly why they are not.
The quirk of fate is that the Portuguese once had everything that his successor in west London currently boasts - a collectively strong side that are strolling towards the EPL title unchallenged and could make significant strides towards a league and FA Cup Double.
His downfall was allowing a bruising ego to bring it all crashing down around him in a matter of months.
What Mourinho endured little under 15 months ago in the English capital is now threatening to rear an ugly head again by following him to the Old Trafford hot seat.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is more than an arrogant self-proclamation. He is United's current embodiment; their hopes and dreams continuing to rest on his evergreen shoulders.
But for how much longer?
It may be just as well that United's players have been banished from daring to mention the prospect of a potential silverware Treble by Mourinho.
As things stand, they will be lucky to emerge from this season with anything other than the League Cup to show for their efforts.
Renewing acquaintances with a high-flying Chelsea, barely six months since their 4-0 humiliation, could not have been worse timed with the former Sweden captain serving the first of a three-match suspension when the Red Devils step out at the Bridge again.
Like Diego Costa, there has been plenty to admire about Ibrahimovic's repertoire this season once his unsightly dark arts are stripped away.
Except Chelsea have shown that they are capable of not only functioning but also winning without the aid of their hard-wired hit-man.
United are about to discover whether they are truly capable of relying on someone other than the 35-year-old Swede to maintain their ambitions of a return to former glories.
Mourinho's task is made all the more difficult by a distinct lack of leaders within his lucratively assembled squad.
Paul Pogba was supposed to be someone that United would come to rely on for years to come - and he still might - but the world's most expensive player has been outshone by one significantly longer in the tooth and already looking to the next chapter of a career swansong.
Others have been similarly placed in the shade.
Wayne Rooney is a mere husk of the player who was once edging gracefully into the twilight of his time at the top.
His natural successor, Marcus Rashford, has failed to build on last season's prolific breakthrough spell.
The 19-year-old's renaissance in the FA Cup, with three goals from two outings this term, bodes well for a potential repeat of that scoring streak.
Others, however, also need to step up with the threat of life without Ibrahimovic extending beyond next month's visit of West Brom looming large.
Never has one player made such a seismic impact at Old Trafford in such a short space of time.
Should the offers from Major League Soccer prove enticing enough, the potential void left this summer could be devastating to Mourinho's planned renaissance.
United's supporting cast must finally emerge from the shadows and prove they are more than a one-man operation.