Mourinho: Zlatan withdrawal was tactical

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho insists his decision to haul off Zlatan Ibrahimovic at half-time against Burnley was purely for tactical reasons.

The 36-year-old striker was handed his first Premier League start of the season on Tuesday for the visit of Sean Dyche’s side to Old Trafford.

Ibrahimovic had little impact on the game in the first half as the Red Devils found themselves trailing 2-0 at the break, after Ashley Barnes opened the scoring in the third minute before Steven Defour doubles the Clarets’ lead with a superb free-kick on 36 minutes.

The Swede did not reappear for the second half, along with Marcos Rojo – the duo being replaced by Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan respectively, with the substitutions having the desired effect.

Lingard pulled a goal back just eight minutes after his introduction and the United youth product struck again in injury-time to rescue a point for the hosts.

Asked why he took off Ibrahimovic, Mourinho said: “[It] was tactical, play only with one central defender. We know that they don’t normally have the ball, they just play direct.

“So really in the line-up, play one against one, [Phil] Jones was a risk Jones accepted, [Nemanja] Matic was there just to bring the ball from totally free positions, so he was bringing lots of balls into midfield.

“And then instead of more positional players like Zlatan and [Romelu] Lukaku, we decided to go with Mkhitaryan, Lingard and [Juan] Mata all three trying to play in these areas behind Lukaku and we can say we had some success.

“I still think with so many balls in important areas, lots of crosses, good crosses, low crosses, we didn’t attack all these balls well, and also not lucky with the rebounds, so I’m happy with the effort, the personality, the feeling of we didn’t lose but of course we lost two points.”

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