The above quote, published by Mark Ogden, will no doubt attract criticism and ridicule on social media but is it really that far wide of the mark?
First of all, let’s forget his age. Instead, let’s focus on his character, his leadership qualities, his aura and presence. Here is a man who has achieved pretty much everything within the game. A man who scored 28 goals across all competitions in his debut season for United despite being written off as over-the-hill before the campaign had begun. 28 goals despite his season ending in April after suffering a horrific knee injury against Anderlecht in the Europa League Quarter Final.
It is no secret that this season has been unpleasant to say the least. Rumours of dressing room unrest coupled with dire performances on the field have put Jose Mourinho’s position as manager under threat. With that in mind, Mark Ogden’s point probably isn’t that far wide of the mark. During the last two seasons, United have lost two key leaders, in Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney, whilst the same could be argued with Michael Carrick who has taken up a coaching role at the club.
It has long been muted that the one thing United lack right now is a leader and Zlatan certainly holds those qualities. His first stint at Old Trafford was lauded by several of the current playing staff and his presence could be just the thing our dressing room needs right now.
In terms of his playing days, there is certainly evidence that he could still do a job up top right now. Some would argue that, with 20 goals in 25 games for LA Galaxy, Zlatan appears to be playing the MLS like he’s playing beginner mode on FIFA 19. Lukaku is struggling and there have been calls by some fans for him to be dropped, although Mourinho does appear reluctant to do so. Zlatan certainly wouldn’t be a regular if he was to return and many will point to his below-par second season at the club as evidence. However, it is oft-forgotten that he was rushed back from injury to ease the pressure on Lukaku. And let’s not forget that this is the type of injury that has previously ruined careers, while Zlatan was back within seven months.
Many will view such a move as desperation on Mourino’s part but let us not forget that even Fergie was prone to the odd veteran if he believed it would improve the squad as a whole. 35-year-old Laurent Blanc and 36-year-old Henrik Larsson are two examples of Fergie’s old-timer success stories.
Should Jose last until January, and I thoroughly expect him to, Zlatan could be just the man he needs to help calm the murky waters.