With the Swede out of action until att least the New Year, Mourinho decided Manchester United’s priority was a direct replacement, and long-term target Antoine Griezmann didn’t fit that profile.
For months he had wanted the diminutive and pacy France forward to play off Ibrahimovic, but now his striker is out of the equation until New Year – should he stay – he is understood to have cooled his interest.
Mourinho has always liked to play with a traditional targetman. He had Didier Drogba in his first spell at Chelsea, Ibrahimovic, Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito at Inter Milan, Karim Benzema at Real Madrid, Diego Costa when he returned to Stamford Bridge, and lured Ibrahimovic to Old Trafford last summer.
It proved a successful reunion with Ibrahimovic scoring 28 goals until his season was cut short when he ruptured the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee during the Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht at Old Trafford on April 20.
Girezmann has filled the centre-forward role for Atletico Madrid but at 5ft 9ins and super-slim, he is not big or muscular enough for Mourinho’s profile.
Jose Mourinho is desperate to bring in a new striker this summer
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's injury lay off changed Jose Mourinho's transfer strategy
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are full of potential but still too young and too inconsistent to carry the burden for a while season.
So Mourinho’s focus is now on finding a tried-and-tested specialist No9, a player good in the air, a reliable goalscorer and one capable of leading the line.
That is why he is ready to go back to the future and target Romalu Lukaku, a player he fell out with and sold during his second spell at Chelsea.
Mourinho didn’t think the Belgium striker was ready then but after seeing him score 104 goals in his last five seasons, first at West Brom and then Everton, Lukaku looks the perfect fit.
Also, he has told Everton he won’t sign a new contract and wants Champions League football, which United can now offer courtesy of their Europa League victory.
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Atletico's failed attempt at lifting their transfer ban means Antoine Griezmann is unlikely to leave Manchester United fans suggest Antoine Griezmann alternatives Thu, June 1, 2017
Click to reveal who Man Utd fans want to sign if a deal for Antoine Griezmann doesn't happen
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The big problem is that Everton are asking almost four times the £28m fee that Mourinho sold him for in 2014, although United could negotiate a lower price perhaps by offering Wayne Rooney in a cash-plus-player exchange.
Golden Boot winner Harry Kane is hugely admired at Old Trafford but is out of the equation because Tottenham simply will not sell their star striker. And, it is fair to say, United have not enjoyed their dealings with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy over the years.
Torino’s Andrea Belotti and Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata also fit the profile for United while they could attempt to hijack Pierre Emerick Aubayemang’s move from Borussia Dortmund to Paris Germain.
Belotti, 23, has risen to prominence in Italy this season with 27 goals in 32 games for Torino. His release clause is the same as Grizemann’s at £87m.
Morata, who has worked for Mourinho before, has scored 20 goals in 42 appearances for Real but remains behind the likes of Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo in the pecking order at the Bernabeu. United would not be tempted by any swap deal suggestions from Real involving David De Gea going back to Spain.
United haven’t gone off Griezmann as a player and while a move for him this summer now looks unlikely, they have not ruled out buying him in the future.
For now, Mourinho believes that in Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata he already has options for the No10 role and both players have proved they are capable of amassing 20 goals a season.
Rashford and Martial can both play off a main striker while Paul Pogba is better when given licence to roam forward to link up with the strikers.
One thing is for sure, whatever way he does it, Mourinho has to improve United’s goals output if they are to challenge for the title next season.
They hit only 54 last season – 31 less than champions Chelsea and 32 fewer than runners-up Tottenham – and Ibrahimovic was the only man to get into double figures for League goals.