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? Continue reading Is a Zlatan return a good thing?
In the end, the clinical powerhouse that is Zlatan Ibrahimovic put to rest a valiant resurgence by Southampton in the 2017 EFL Cup final. Outplayed for vast quantities of the game, we were (once again) grateful to this season’s talisman for what looked at times an undeserved victory.
This is not to say that we didn’t deserve the win – you can only be judged on the final scoreline – but Southampton’s performance merited at least the possibility of extra time. Even the manager, usually so reserved in his praise for opposing teams, was profuse in his admittance of the Saints’ dominance over 90 minutes. According to him, this was a game in which “[Southampton] was better than us for long periods of the game”. And yet, we leave Wembley the victors: trophy number 65 in hand, and no amount of criticism from rival fans can take that away.
Critics will point to Southampton’s wrongly disallowed opener changing the face of the match. Others, of the United persuasion, may mention Bobby Stokes’ offside goal in the 1976 final…let’s just call it even for now. Officials will always be scrutinised, but we can only play to the whistle and decision.
United approached this fixture as game number four in the space of just eleven days. Combined with Mourinho’s apparent unwillingness to rotate the squad accordingly, the recipe was there for an underwhelming, fatigued performance. “The fuel was not in our legs” – the strikingly accurate synopsis offered by the manager. And this was evident throughout. The back four were shaky; this was possibly Eric Bailly’s worst game in a United shirt, and Marcos Rojo had the look of a man coached by Louis Van Gaal. Paul Pogba, despite having been described as “outstanding” by the manager, had in the eyes of most of the United support, one of his most peripheral performances in the shirt. Remarkably, our entire team could have afforded themselves the luxury of an off-day, because of the sheer force of will of the self-proclaimed ‘King’ of Sweden.
We took the lead courtesy of his nineteenth minute free-kick. A thing of beauty, but one well overdue (I’ve lost count of the amount of wall-struck free kicks offered up ’til now); Jessie Lingard’s Wembley love-affair shows no signs of fizzling out – his stroked finish on 38 minutes saw us cruising, wholly against the run of play. Before this, Southampton had continually threatened, with Oriel Romeu hitting the woodwork and Gabbiadini’s disallowed finish leaving the Saints’ march rather stunted. The ex-Napoli man injected some urgency into the fixture just after the interval, his finish expertly passing through David de Gea’s usually bolted-shut legs, one minute into first-half injury time. Gabbiadini (already far and away Liverpool’s next-best striker at this point) restored parity to the scoreline with another brilliant finish from inside the box.
Fast-forward through 40 minutes of Southampton routinely leaving us second-best, enter Zlatan. Ander Herrera’s (more often praised for his grit and aggressiveness this season) produced a beautifully lofted pass to find the Swede, who – of course – headed the ball over Fraser Forster and ultimately crushed the Saints’ hopes of another 30 minutes at Wembley. The big man’s stats now read as follows: game number 38; goal number 26, trophy number two (so far).
Now, I may have sounded entirely effusive in my description of Zlatan’s contribution to the final. It’s impossible not to be when a player has such a singularly dominant performance. And yet there’s some room for me to leave you with a slight concern as well, particularly when it comes to Zlatan’s role and position in the squad.
After arriving from what may be a wrongly or rightly labelled ‘weak’ Ligue 1, the former PSG player has unequivocally proven his capabilities as a top performer, tried and tested in all of Europe’s major leagues. What troubles me is that this year will be 36. Is it wise of Mourinho to depend so heavily on an ageing player who, whilst undoubtedly a positive influence in every imaginable way on our young squad, will surely call time after next season at the latest? Our style of play is so clearly moulded with the focal point of Zlatan in mind. The majority of United fans (I’m sure) called for an exorcism of LVG’s mundane and predictable ‘Philosophy’ after our performances on the pitch took a dour and ineffective shape. Whilst the results and solidity of the team have taken an evident upturn since LVG’s doomed tenure, the style of play in recent fixtures most definitely has not.
In no way is this concern a call-to-arms on Mourinho’s dependency on Ibrahimovic, but after a season’s worth of seemingly youth-appropriate fixtures has passed us by (i.e. Wigan, St.Etienne, etc.) , there seem to be a fair few talented younger players who aren’t getting their fair share of game time. Was the injury to Henrikh Mkhitaryan really a necessary one? Is the obvious fatigue affecting the squad an avoidable situation? Don’t misinterpret my scepticism for disappointment; Mourinho and United seem a better fit now than at any point – the habit of winning is absolutely invaluable for our squad, and I’m delighted at the way we’re progressing. But the recognition must be there that we are a long way from the finished article.
At some point in the future the manager will have to place greater trust on the shoulders of Martial, Rashford and co, because as remarkable a talent as Zlatan is, his star will undoubtedly fade, and we need to have a contingency plan in place for when he does.
With the arrival of Zlatan being confirmed today via his Instagram post a lot of parallels have been made of the signing, before even kicking a ball, to another enigmatic striker in one, Eric Cantona.
Now to say that he’d reach the same levels as King Eric would be a tall order indeed but they could share one thing in common when their United career is written. And that is that they may be seen as being the difference in the first league title in a baron time.
So let’s look at the stats; last season Zlatan scored in all competitions, 38 goals and had 13 assists which is not only impressive in its own merit but, when I tell you that United as a squad scored 49 goals last season.
Now, I can already hear you say, “But John that’s in Ligue 1, anyone can score in that league.” That is a debate for another day. The Swedish talisman has scored 302 league goals in his career and he’ll be among the goals next year.
Zlatan has unwavering confidence
So what does he bring? Not only goals but what I think will be most important for United is that not only will he be able to bring experience to the forward line while passing on knowledge to Wilson/Rashford and others, the main threat he’ll bring is his unwavering confidence he has in himself and what he’ll instill in to this team.
Since Sir Alex left the question can be asked who’s embodied that ‘Never say die’ attitude and show the world why we’re called the Devils. He is arrogant but he has so far showed the world why with his ability and a trophy cabinet many could only dream of.
In Zlatan we have a man who can be the missing spark we need to start a new dawn of dominance for the Red Devils which Cantona did before him. He has always had questions put against him his whole career and he’s always answered his critics. And they’ll mount again until the start of the season, so for now, over to you Zlatan.
UPDATE: 26/06/2016 16:56 – It is understood that a deal between club and player has been agreed and that all is left is for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to fly into Manchester and discuss his role in the team with Jose Mourinho. Read more here.
[Original article below]
The deal that would see Swedish legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic join Manchester United appeared to edge closer today as Sky Sports reported that a one year deal had been agreed subject to a medical taking place after Euro 2016.
It has long been thought that a move to United was all but a done deal and the news that personal terms have finally been agreed will come as a relief to incoming boss Jose Mourinho as he takes the first steps towards rebuilding the squad which finished a lowly fifth last season. Though the medical is scheduled to take place following the culmination of Euro 2016 in France, that is seen to be nothing more than a formality.
It is fair to say that the arrival of the charismatic 34-year-old has divided opinion amongst United supporters but securing the signature of one of the most decorated footballers of recent times can be recognised of something of a coup for Mourinho, especially considering the lack of Champions League football on offer next season.
The Swede, fresh from an underwhelming performance in his national side’s 1-1 draw against the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2016, will certainly bolster United’s attacking options with Mourinho believed to have complete faith in the development of Marcus Rashford. Ibrahimovic’s arrival will go a long way in helping Rashford improve his all round game as he lines up against a player that has won a league title at each club he has played for since leaving Malmo in 2001.
Ibrahimovic departs Paris Saint Germain this summer after scoring 156 goals in 180 appearances for the French champions.
Whenever Jose Mourinho’s name was linked with Manchester United, the name Zlatan Ibrahimovic hasn’t been too far behind. Since working together at Inter Milan back in 2009 the pair have struck up a close relationship with one another, with of course one-stand out passion that lies close to each other hearts, their mutual displeasure toward Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola.
It is no secret Pep Guardiola isn’t exactly high on Jose Mourinho’s Christmas card list, nor is it a surprise he isn’t too high on Zlatans. Mourinho’s rivalry with the Spaniard dates back to when the Portuguese managed Real Madrid between 2010-2013, whilst Zlatan’s rivalry dates back to his brief stay at the Nou Camp in 2010, where despite scoring 21 goals for Barcelona was sold a year later to AC Milan.
Their sheer hatred for Guardiola alone could already be seen as us having an upper hand before the season even kicks off. Both have points to prove, Mourinho to show the footballing world that he is truly the best manager on the planet, whilst Zlatan to prove that age really is just a number.
To sit here and say signing Ibrahimovic would not be gamble would be silly as let’s face it, it is a gamble, it’s a massive gamble, but it is a gamble worth taking. Sections of the older generation at Old Trafford have even likened Zlatan to a former United great in Eric Cantona and it is easy to see why. Both display on the football field a certain confidence, arrogance if you will that make them winners. To become successful on the pitch you need a player with that charisma in your side and with Zlatan he has exactly that and Mourinho knows it.
The main negative aspects surrounding this potential signing all point to the youth, more specifically at Marcus Rashford. Rashford’s superb end to last season will not go un-noticed, if anything the arrival of Ibrahimovic would only help the youngster. Training and playing alongside one of the finest strikers of our generation in Ibrahimovic can only be a positive for Rashford, and one he could gain invaluable experience from.
It remains to be seen whether we do indeed sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but one thing is for sure if Zlatan Ibrahimovic is wearing the colours of Manchester United next season, we are already one up on our noisy neighbours before the season has even begun and they know it.
The Paris St Germain striker could sign for Manchester United next summer.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s contract at PSG will expire next summer and Manchester United are thought to be close to agreeing a deal with the Swede.
United will face competition from Major League Soccer sides as it is known that Ibrahimovic is interested in finishing his career in the USA.
Read more on this by visiting the Telegraph website here.
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Watch some of Ibrahimovic’s best goals below.