Here's the situation. While we must always be wary of mind-games, of misdirection, of ruses and counter-ruses, the reports — the mystical, all-knowing reports — suggest that Manchester United will be without any of their first-team strikers for tonight's FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea.
As Oscar Wilde once said, "to lose one striker may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. But losing four is just ridiculous. It shouldn't happen. Hey, did you hear my line about intelligent people and breakfast?"
So what is Jose Mourinho going to do this evening? There are a few options ...
Play Henrikh Mkhitaryan as a false nine
Or at least, as the notional point of the attack, in a kind of a withdrawn way. Could be fun, not least because it would leave Chelsea's three at the back marking basically nobody. David Luiz has been excellent this season, but has anybody tried just leaving him alone? And, just as his mind drifts away, sending a sprinting Mkhitaryan flying past him?
Come to think of it ...
Not bother attacking at all
For the first time since the competition crawled from the primordial ooze, there are no FA Cup quarter-final replays. So perhaps the absence of all United's strikers is a sign from above that Mourinho should string six across the back, string four more in front of them, and play for penalties from the first whistle.
Such an approach would have two major advantages. First, if it comes off, it would really, really annoy people. And secondly, if it comes off, it would really, really annoy people. Just take a second to imagine the fallout. Editorials decrying Mourinho for killing the game. Cascades of angry tweets accusing United of betraying their traditions. Sweet waterfalls of salty tears.
Only one problem. It definitely won't work. United's defence isn't particularly good.
Pluck some unknown child from the reserves
Mourinho: It's your time, Young Prospect! You saw Rashford last season! You remember Rooney bursting on to the scene! Well, no, you're too young. God, we've all got so old, so fast. The world is a darker place. I used to smile more, you know. And I'm sure the sun was brighter, then. Apples were sweeter. And my knees didn't hurt so much.
Young Prospect: ...
Mourinho: Anyway, good luck out there!
Deploy Marouane Fellaini as a siege ent
Okay, so Fellaini can't hope to replicate Zlatan Ibrahimovic's finishing prowess, movement, imagination, touch, link-up play, knack for self-promotion, intimidatory aspect, or thundering self-belief. But he is very tall. Very tall indeed. And his chest control is quite the thing. And, should it come to it, he knows where his elbows are.
Buy Zlatan Ibrahimovic a large false moustache
"Hello, my name is Mr Civomiharbi. And I come from ... some place far away that definitely isn't Sweden. Yes, that'll do. Anyway, I say I should play up front for Manchester United this evening."
"I like the way Civomiharbi thinks!"
"Oh no, we have no strikers. On dear. Oh my. What is to be done." And so on and so forth.
Then, just as United take the field, cut the lights, shine a single beam down onto the centre circle, and watch Chelsea quiver in fear as Marcus Rashford rises from the grass. Trumpets! Screaming! A slight psychological advantage, maybe! Sorted.