Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be Jose Mourinho’s shrewdest Manchester United transfer
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is our Swedish hero, is a new chant that’s beginning to sweep throughout Manchester United’s faithful.
The fervour around an ageing striker, who’s mentality is all about winning, has excited a fan base that has had little to celebrate since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement three years ago.
Bar last season’s FA Cup win, United hadn’t won a major trophy since Ferguson guided them to the Premier League title in 2013.
The appointment of Jose Mourinho as manager this summer has restored expectations to a club that had drastically under-performed in the intervening years between David Moyes and Louis van Gaal’s reign.
Mourinho has spent vastly this transfer window recruiting defender Eric Bailly as well as midfielders Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba – the latter for a world-record fee from Juventus.
Perhaps though his shrewdest purchase was that of Ibrahimovic – a player he’s enjoyed success with in the past.
The pair have worked together for one season previously at Inter Milan where the San Siro outfit won the 2008-09 Serie A title and the Supercoppa Italiana – with Ibrahimovic scoring 29 goals in all competitions.
Ibrahimovic is a serial winner having conquered Holland, Italy, Spain and France and Mourinho will expect him to instill that attitude among the Red Devils squad.
The 34-year-old has already made an impact on and off the pitch at Old Trafford in a short space of time.
On it, he scored within three minutes of his unofficial debut with a bicycle kick in United’s pre-season win over Galatasaray. And on August 7 he followed that up with a late header past Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel as the Red Devils won the Community Shield at Wembley – his official debut.
Off the pitch, Mourinho has hailed him as a ‘gift’ to the precocious talent of Marcus Rashford.
Speaking exclusively to BT Sport about Ibrahimovic’s impact so far at Old Trafford, Mourinho said: ‘I think probably the other players are surprised. Not me because I know him. But probably the other players are surprised. Not with his quality, because the quality everybody knows.
‘Probably a bit with his commitment and motivation because we are speaking about a 34-year-old man that won so much in his career, but probably even more surprised with the person. He is a good guy. What he looks like, it is not what he is.
‘The words he says, he says for fun. He is the guy capable to go to the kitman and say “please give a towel to God” and then laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh and laugh. The image he sells is not him, he is a good guy.
‘He is brilliant with the young boys. I think for [Marcus] Rashford this is a gift.
‘People can say he is not going to play every game from the start, like in the second part of last season, but this is a gift for the kid, too.
‘We are so happy to have him [Ibrahimovic] and for two years, probably the last two years of his career, he probably couldn’t find a bigger league to finish his career and we couldn’t find a better striker in this moment of our building process of our team.
‘We couldn’t find a better striker than him to give us the stability we need.’
At 34, it’s inevitable that some of his powers are on the wane – yet the Swedish forward has never been renowned for his pace.
His quickness of thought, touch and ability to bring others into play are still immaculate and it’ll be intriguing how he interchanges play with an exciting support cast that includes Rashford, Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and captain Wayne Rooney.
It would be unwise and unfair to expect 30 goals from Ibrahimovic in the most competitive league in the world. However, his 6ft 5in frame provides United with a physical presence and allied to the athleticism behind him – expect fireworks from the Red Devils.
Mourinho will be hoping that begins with Sunday’s Premier League trip to Bournemouth as Ibrahimovic looks to be the hero to guide United to a 21st English championship.
By Luke Augustus
This image was provided by Craig Ballantyne.
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