Manchester United fan Daniel Lee argues why Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the man to restore former glories at Old Trafford…
A signal of intent
Despite the fact that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is heading into the twilight of his illustrious career, he still remains a highly sought-after striker among elite European clubs, due to his goalscoring prowess.
Zlatan, a frequent flier, is about to bid farewell to his seventh club and, if Sky Sports are to be believed, Ibrahimovic is set to become the second player through the door at Carrington this summer after defender Eric Bailly.
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A signing of Zlatan’s magnitude would be a statement of Jose Mourinho’s intent, and is also likely to send a wave of apprehension across the waters to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, who have unsurprisingly been touted as early title favourites for 2016-17.
If Mourinho and his Swedish partner-in-crime hit the ground running, the duo could potentially light up the Premier League.
Mentor for United’s young guns
There have been major doubts over whether Ibrahimovic’s arrival would hamper Marcus Rashford or even Anthony Martial’s development. However, Mourinho isn’t foolish – he will be fully aware of Manchester United’s proud history of youth development, and he will certainly be looking to continue this tradition. Rashford and others will all feature in Mourinho’s plans for the future.
In 2014, prior to Sweden’s World Cup playoff against Portugal, the 6ft 5in Swede was quizzed by a journalist about the outcome of the games. The 34-year old replied in typical Zlatan Ibrahimovic fashion: “Only God knows… You’re talking to him now,” according to The Telegraph.
Zlatan, an outspoken character, obviously possesses one of the biggest egos in football, but that is something that United lacks and desperately needs. A cool, calm and composed figure in the dressing room, but the poise to produce the goods on the pitch. A season of watching and learning from one of the world’s best strikers could prove pivotal for Martial and Rashford’s development. For where this team is in its development, signing Zlatan this summer could not be better timing.
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In 2015-16, United recorded their lowest goal tally in a completed Premier League season, netting a mediocre 49 top-flight goals. The fact that Rashford, who only burst onto the scene in Febuary, and Martial scored more than a third of those goals is remarkable – but also slightly worrying.
Currently, Mourinho only has two strikers at his disposal who have the qualities to start up front for United – three if you include Wayne Rooney, although the captain’s days as a striker are seemingly over. It is difficult to imagine Mourinho wanting to head into next season without going out and acquiring the services of a world-class striker. Ibrahimovic appears to be that striker.
Despite turning 34 in August, Zlatan is showing no sign of decline and, like a fine wine, he seems to be improving with age, notching 38 times in Ligue 1 for PSG last season – the highest total of his career – to help the Parisians to win a fourth successive title. To put that into perspective, Ibrahimovic has never reached 30 goals in a completed season, while playing for Barcelona, Juventus, Inter or AC Milan.
Zlatan is not in decline, he’s evolving. The Swede scores every type of goal; 40-yard screamers, tap-ins, headers, free-kicks and even acrobatic volleys. He is continuing to defy expectations. The signing of Ibrahimovic would be essentially risk-free, considering United would be signing him for nothing.
Is Zlatan the man to restore former glories at Old Trafford? In the long-term – no. However, if Ibrahimovic manages to deliver a 21st league title to Old Trafford next season, it could prove to be a stroke of genius by Mourinho.
It is an exciting time to be a Manchester United fan as we wait for the Mourinho era to commence.
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