Former Manchester United assistant coach Rene Meulensteen does not think that Sir Alex Ferguson would have signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic because of the negative impact that the older striker would have on younger players.
Ibrahimovic officially signed with United on Friday and the Swedish striker appeared thrilled to be joining the club. Meulensteen claims that the edition of the 34-year-old will hurt the development of United’s younger players such as Marcus Rashford. The decision to sign Ibrahimovic is a risky one, but United needed to add one more striker to the attacking force because it would be difficult to rely on an 18-year-old as a primary scorer. Bringing in Ibrahimovic will give a touch of depth, but he has never played in the Premier League and is nearing the end of his career. Meulensteen expressed his thoughts on the situation:
“Maybe nine times out of ten he would not have made a decision like this. That is because of everything that Alex Ferguson wanted to do with youngsters — bring them through and improve them as players.
“But if he felt the situation was there for the one time out of ten, he would do it. Like bringing in Laurent Blanc, a player in his 30s, after Jaap Stam left. It’s a similar scenario.
“To be successful is about who is available right now. Then, as a manager, you are judged on the results. You ask ‘Is it the quality we need? Does it fit the situation?’
“In this situation he brings a bit more charisma and personality. Jose Mourinho has worked with him before and had no hesitation signing him.”
Ibrahimovic brings experience, though not Premier League experience, he brings striker expertise. Rashford will have a chance to learn from a great goalscorer and can learn how to deal with pressure-heavy situations. Ibrahimovic has carried teams on his back, and at United, he would not have to do so. Mourinho will have the opportunity to once again work with Ibrahimovic, and if there is a manager who can get the best out of him, it is the Portuguese boss. Ferguson made a similar purchase when he picked up Robin van Persie, but the Dutchman had experience in the Premier League from playing with Arsenal. Meulensteen referred to it, saying:
“It is like the Van Persie deal. Obviously, the strategy was trying to bring in young talented players with potential and build it — but with Van Persie it was a different reason. He had desire and was a winner. Sometimes the decisions are made as they fit the situation with the club.
“Robin was a proven player. If you look at Ibrahimovic, there is a slight risk as he has never played in the Premier League. He will find that not one of the top-four teams will go to the bottom four and pick up easy points. These are different challenges.
“How I look at it is that he has been in so many different leagues and he’s lived up to his reputation everywhere. And I’m sure if he does stay fit and he’s managed well, he will make a difference.”
Van Persie was a big part of United’s title-winning team in 2013, and Ibrahimovic could have a similar impact that Van Persie had on the Old Trafford club. Though it is not expected that Ibrahimovic bags 30 goals for United, he could provide some key finishes throughout the year and even help bring up some of the younger players with valuable advice. Ibrahimovic is a competitive player and is what United need to get back into a winning rhythm that the fans have been begging for since the retirement of Ferguson. With the right ideas, United will be a force to be reckoned with this season, and Ibrahimovic can play a big part in making that a reality.