Red Devils need more than just Ibra
Despite League Cup success, Mourinho knows his Man United side remain a work in progress
Zlatan Ibrahimovic claims that he possesses the gift of foresight.
Manchester United's self-assured striker anticipated that he would single-handedly inspire the Red Devils to League Cup victory over Southampton yesterday morning (Singapore time). Of course he did.
He has been dealing with the same scenario at regular intervals throughout this season.
The Swede's heroics against Southampton in the 3-2 win at Wembley were merely par for the course in a campaign where he has now plundered an emphatic 26 goals in 38 competitive outings.
Relying on a 35-year-old to lead the line is hardly an alien concept for the Red Devils, having utilised Teddy Sheringham regularly during the closing stages of his career swansong in 2001.
UNITED A WORK IN PROGRESS
Except Ibrahimovic is not currently fulfilling the role as a mere supporting cast member.
Every plaudit from Eric Cantona's rightful heir to Old Trafford's saviour have been willingly embraced by a player whose bulging egotism was in danger of outweighing his on-field value.
That theorem has never truly been tested due to United's ongoing battle with transition.
Only a silly player comes to England at 35 years old and, with the successful career that Zlatan has, if he doesn’t feel he can do it he wouldn’t have come. Who better to know? Not me, not you. Him.Jose Mourinho on Zlatan ibrahimovic
Even Jose Mourinho remains at odds with this latest accomplishment. Atop Wembley's grand stage, his arms were raised in jubilation, but his face offered a contrasting viewpoint.
Mourinho's maiden title successes in England have been preceded by a triumphant League Cup run and he has lamented his peers who refuse to use the competition as a platform on which to build.
But he is firmly under no illusions that his side remain a work in progress.
Chelsea are already cruising to the EPL title with a 15-point margin over their former manager and that gulf could be even larger by the time the season draws to a close on May 21.
By then, United's Champions League qualification hopes may also have been long curtailed.
Rather than advocating fans to camp outside Ibrahimovic's house to convince him to extend his stay, Mourinho would be better served ensuring his own dwelling is in order if he is to extend a current trend of delivering eight league titles across four clubs in the past 12 seasons.
Cutting away the misfits of Louis van Gaal's regime began in earnest last month as Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay were both offloaded for a combined £41.7 million (S$73m).
That is unlikely to be the end of what threatens to be a lengthy process.
Bastian Schweinsteiger's recent return from the wilderness is also likely to prove a short-lived affair, while Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian, stalwarts of the Dutchman's two-year reign, are already condemned to careers away from Old Trafford when the transfer window reopens.
Mourinho will also lay siege to the remnants of Alex Ferguson's final class of 2013.
The likes of Phil Jones and Ashley Young will not be safe after seeing lesser players like Nick Powell, Will Keane and Paddy McNair, to name just three, ruthlessly deposed in the previous summer.
Wayne Rooney's next destination will continue to dominate the agenda, with clubs all over the world preparing to offer the unwanted England captain a long-awaited escape from his current misery.
That in itself provides a unique window of opportunity for the United manager.
Parting ways with the 31-year-old, who remains a peripheral figure since Ibrahimovic's resurgence, will allow Mourinho to fund his planned capture of Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid and end what has been one of European football's worst kept secrets in the past 12 months.
Irrespective of whether he stays beyond the end of this season, Ibrahimovic remains a short-term fix that cannot guarantee the EPL title in his own right.
Griezmann is unlikely to be the final missing piece for United, but may go some way in bridging that gap from transition to triumph.