Manchester United take on Galatasaray in Gothenburg on Saturday night, and it’s a notable outing as Zlatan Ibrahimovic will make his debut for the Red Devils.
The 34-year-old arrived on a free transfer earlier this summer, following a season in which he scored 50 goals in 51 appearances in all competitions for Paris Saint-Germain.
While the Premier League will undoubtedly be a tougher test for the Swedish forward, his mere presence has already made a big difference to United, according to boss Jose Mourinho.
“With Zlatan you may see someone with a big ego, big self-esteem, but it is in a positive way,” Mourinho told MUTV.
“When he is with the group, he is humble and friendly to everyone – integration is good.
“Zlatan is a fantastic player and, immediately in training, we could feel what I call ‘functional empathy’ – people looking to him, him looking to connect with other players. He is an amazing link player, an amazing player. He could be anything on the pitch, not just a goalscorer.”
Ibrahimovic’s record speaks for itself, as he arrives with an Eredivisie title, four Serie A titles, a La Liga triumph and four Ligue 1 trophies. Naturally, the teams around him have played a significant part in those successes, but the former AC Milan and Barcelona star was certainly a leading factor in them.
Aside from his quality on the ball, his leadership, charisma and flair will be crucial additions to the United squad this season and beyond, as too often have they missed that creative spark and bit of excitement in the final third over the last three years.
In many ways, it’s a shame that he’s made the move to England so late in his career, but a reunion with Mourinho where they are now pivotal figures in restoring the Premier League giants to their place at the top of English football is almost a perfect match.
United needed some inspiration this summer after falling below expectations yet again under Louis van Gaal last season. That’s exactly what they got in Mourinho’s arrival and then the signing of Ibrahimovic, now it’ll be up to the pair and the rest of the squad to translate that onto the pitch.
Ibra won’t, and shouldn’t, be tasked with doing it all, but with the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial around him, United should have the perfect combination of players to be a real threat to their rivals again.