By Salawudeen Olawale
Manchester United could be without a recognised striker for Monday’s FA Cup quarterfinal at Chelsea on Monday.
Marcus Rashford has reportedly been ruled out through illness, joining the already injured Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the sidelines.
It had looked as if Ibrahimovic’s three-game domestic ban for violent conduct, which starts at Stamford Bridge on Monday, could pave the way for teenage sensation Rashford to resume a central striking role after a frustrating time out wide this season.
By contrast, Premier League leaders Chelsea – 17 points clear of United – were reported to have a fully-fit squad, having already beaten the Red Devils 4-0 in the league at Stamford Bridge in October.
But United manager Jose Mourinho believes Chelsea successor Antonio Conte is benefiting from a “position of privilege” as a result of the London club’s failure to qualify for European football this season.
Mourinho may be Chelsea’s most successful manager of all time but that did not stop the Portuguese boss being sacked by the west London club for a second time last season as they made a miserable defence of the Premier League title.
Guus Hiddink took over as caretaker boss before former Italy manager Conte assumed control prior to the start of the season.
Chelsea are now 10 points clear at the top of the table and poised to win the title in Italian boss Conte’s maiden campaign in English football.
Mourinho believes his former club’s domestic season has received a massive boost as a result of a lack of European fixtures, with United having to make a nearly 4 000-mile round trip to face Russian side Rostov in the Europa League last week.
“The most difficult thing to have is time to work, and they have time to work,” Mourinho disclosed when asked how difficult it is to win the league in your first season.
“I know that he (Conte) said a couple of days ago or a couple of weeks ago that it’s not his fault that they are not in the European competitions,” he added.
“It’s my fault and the players’ fault, but the reality is that he got in his hands a situation where they have time to work, time to rest, time to relax, time to disconnect, time to travel, time to have holidays, time to go to America and enjoy America for a couple of days.
“They have time for all of these things, so they are in a position of privilege – the same privilege that Liverpool had a couple of years ago and they almost won the Premier League – but I don’t want to say that they don’t deserve credit for it.”