Time to drop Ibra, Mourinho
Mourinho's faith in veteran striker is misplaced
MAN UNITED 0
Zlatan Ibrahimovic remains symptomatic of football in the social media age.
He is an ageing trapeze artist whose current, and frequent, inability to grasp the fly bar is masked by regularly harking back to a time when he did so with such simplicity.
If only Manchester United could cut through the hype to see exactly what the rest of the world is finally seeing in this once mercurial Swedish striker. He is a busted flush.
Attempts by Jose Mourinho to siphon away the elder statesmen in the infancy of his Old Trafford reign has seen only one player immune from scrutiny or even criticism.
The likes of Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and others were never going to be considered the future of United.
At 35, Ibrahimovic was increasingly less so, yet bewilderingly continues to be indulged - especially after his latest barren outing yesterday.
Mourinho's psychology is obvious.
He sees this former star of stadiums, rather than smartphones, as his new Samuel Eto'o - a player who can offer a higher calibre of experience to the Portuguese's new side in spite of his advancing seniority.
But, as the United manager discovered with the four-time African Player of the Year, sometimes it is better to leave the past safely in the warm confines of sepia.
That lesson is being learnt a second time around with Ibrahimovic, now over 500 minutes without a goal in the EPL after drawing repeated blanks against Burnley.
He can still perform parts of the old routine, notably plucking a ball out of mid-air with his pointed boot midway through the first half, but the grand finales often fall short.
Never was that more evident when he shaped to shoot after Michael Keane cut out a pass.
Everything appeared to point to a majestic volley which would nestle in the left-hand corner of the East Stand's net instead of residing further back and off-course.
Meeting an inviting cross from Ander Herrera to the far post with a trademark scissor-kick should have also yielded another notch on an already prolific career track record.
Only Tom Heaton's sprawling acrobatics across the Stretford End goalmouth prevented reports of his demise being exaggerated.
Ghosting in again in the 89th minute to pick up a Paul Pogba pass pointed to a goal.
Once again, he fluffed his lines.
He wasn't the only culprit. United had 37 shots on goal (11 on target) and 19 corners with no end result to show for it.
But, therein lies the problem with Ibrahimovic - the current and ugly reality is often at odds with the misty-eyed perception.
Mourinho knows the predicament all too well.
He, too, is discovering the pitfalls of being a yesterday man at a time when the game's landscape is quickly passing him by.
Banishment to the stands due to insolence for the first time during his Old Trafford tenure was inevitable.
The only surprise is that it took 10 games into the EPL campaign.
United will have had designs of inheriting the old Mourinho; the one who flung his championship medals into the crowd and, even as recently as two seasons ago, charmed those within and outside of Stamford Bridge with his dry witticisms.
Instead, they find themselves dealing with a marketable upgrade on Louis van Gaal.
For all their double-figured attempts, scoring increasingly appears to be beyond the Red Devils' capabilities, as does translating their recent cup exploits into the league.
Now winless in four EPL games, goalless in their last three and sitting eight points off the pace, Mourinho's woes make Ibrahimovic's tribulations seem trivial.