Man United welcome returning stars
MANCHESTER, England (AP):
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba will return to Manchester United's squad after long-term injuries for the English Premier League match against Newcastle today, boosting the attacking options of a team that has struggled for goals in recent weeks.
Ibrahimovic is making an earlier-than-expected comeback after seven months out with knee ligament damage, during which he has been released by United, replaced as the team's main striker by Romelu Lukaku, and signed again.
Pogba has been out with a hamstring injury since September 12 and his surges from midfield have been missed by United, whose scoring threat have reduced sharply over the last two months.
Argentina defender Marcos Rojo, who has been sidelined by a knee injury for the same length of time as Ibrahimovic, is also ready to return this weekend as United attempts to keep in touch with Manchester City, which lead the league by eight points from their fierce rival.
Pogba's return might be more important for the team but the 35-year-old Ibrahimovic's is more startling, given he wasn't supposed to be back until January.
"We were all saying in 2017, he would be back, but it is one thing on December 31, 2017, and another thing mid-November," United manager JosÈ Mourinho said. "Of course, we welcome him back. He is an incredible personality, to fight such an important injury."
On Pogba, Mourinho said: "You can clearly see there is a Manchester United this season before Paul's injury and after Paul's injury.
"There are qualities in our football, qualities that influence our approach in matches, with Pogba and without Pogba. Simple as that."
United have scored just twice in its last four league games, during which the team has dropped eight points.
Ibrahimovic and Rojo seriously injured their knees in the same match, a Europa League quarterfinal against Anderlecht.
United released Ibrahimovic during the summer but offered him the use of its training-ground facilities to carry out his rehabilitation after he underwent surgery.
"He made a full recovery," Mourinho said. "Now you cannot expect him to be ready to play 90 minutes or to be ready to play consecutive matches like he did all his career.
"Now he needs time to be back to his level, his fitness, his confidence, his sharpness, his everything. But, from the clinical point of view, to be good and ready is fantastic."
United signed Lukaku for £75 million from Everton in July as a replacement for Ibrahimovic.