Can Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic work together?

Ander Herrera, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata

With the arrival of one of the most recognizable and exceptional talents in world football, there has been immense excitement throughout the vast Manchester United fan base regarding Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ibrahimovic, a striker, will bring depth to the forward line, which was needed with an 18-year-old in Marcus Rashford leading the line at the conclusion to last season. Ibrahimovic’s arrival could mean a change for Wayne Rooney, who played a deeper role for Louis van Gaal and for Roy Hodgson’s England during the European Championships. During a Facebook live broadcast, Rooney spoke about a partnership with Ibrahimovic at United.

“I am looking forward to it. I think he has been one of the best strikers in world football over the last 10 years and he has always won trophies everywhere he has been.

“He is a huge character so I am looking forward to getting back, training with him and hopefully forming a good partnership and being successful together.”

Both Rooney and Ibrahimovic are forwards but Rooney plays in deeper roles than Ibrahimovic is accustomed to. Rooney has not fallen in form too much, however, he does not score as many goals as he once did. His technical abilities have only become better over time. Rooney has wonderful vision and a calmness on the ball that cannot be taught. His precision and accuracy when passing is phenomenal and surely a striker of Ibrahimovic’s stature would want a team-mate like Rooney. And in 2015, Ibrahimovic praised Rooney and said that he wanted to play with the England captain. 

“He runs a lot, he fights a lot, he sacrifices a lot.

“When he played with Cristiano Ronaldo all the work was done by Wayne Rooney but he didn’t get the credit because Ronaldo was scoring all of the goals.

“I’d prefer to have him in my team than play against him. I’ve not been lucky enough to play with him but I enjoy seeing him on the pitch – if I cannot play with him, I will watch him.”

Rooney had to adjust to Robin van Persie when the Dutchman was brought into Sir Alex Ferguson’s team that went on to win the Premier League title in 2013 (the last time United won the league title). Rooney has stayed with United since the Ferguson era while other strikers (Van Persie, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, and Danny Welbeck) did not. Van Gaal attempted to bring in Radamel Falcao but the Colombian could not find form at United. Now that Anthony Martial and Rashford have made positive impacts in the first team with Rooney helping them along. By adding Ibrahimovic to the equation, more experience gets into the team and ideally, better results.

Ibrahimovic is a No. 9 striker — and now even wears the shirt number for United — who does not have to do much of the defensive work himself. Anyone in that role does not have to work back and get the ball or even bring the ball up the field. There is one primary job for Ibrahimovic: score goals. Ibrahimovic is capable of scoring, and he can be unselfish too, earning 13 assists in 31 matches in Ligue 1. If he can provide numbers like that with United, the Red Devils will be set for a fantastic year.

Rooney and Ibrahimovic can work together because Rooney has adjusted over the years at United to many different No. 9 role strikers Ibrahimovic has adjusted to many suppliers over the years. Ibrahimovic wanted to play with Rooney and now the wish is coming true with Jose Mourinho taking over at United. Rashford will still play but Ibrahimovic has the opportunity to play in the Premier League for a coach he loves and with a player he dreamt of playing alongside. Now it just has to materialize on the field, which could be as soon as Saturday July 30 when United take on Galatasaray in Sweden where Ibrahimovic could play in front of a supportive home crowd. It could be a bust, but the partnership between Rooney and Ibrahimovic could be one of the best partnerships United fans have seen since Ronaldo and Rooney ruled Old Trafford.

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