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Opinion: Zlatan Ibrahimovic to inspire Manchester United youth?

Zlatan Ibrahimović has enjoyed a brilliant start to his Manchester United career. After scoring against Galatasaray in pre-season, he then scored in the Community Shield, scored against Bournemouth on the opening day of the Premier League season, and then most recently scored two against Southampton on Friday night under the lights at Old Trafford. After the game he spoke to the official Manchester United website, stating that he hopes to mentor United’s youngsters like he was mentored at his time at Juventus. He said:

“I played with many big stars, I mean when I came to Juventus I was a young guy. I had Vieira, Cannavaro, Thuram, Buffon, Del Piero, Trezeguet, Nedved, Camoranesi, Emmerson. It was a monster team, there were so many. The mentality came from that. The more mature you become – I have two kids now – you take on more responsibility. It is important what the guys [at United] think about me, that is the most important thing. If I can help then I will help, and I can help even more.”

The most notable comparison that seems to have developed from the signing of Ibrahimović is to Eric Cantona. Zlatan is seen possess as a presence, or an aura in a similar vein to Cantona. The Frenchman was seen as the catalyst of United’s team during the 1990s, that helped inspire a young United team that included David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Ryan Giggs, to trophies such as the FA Cup. With young talent emerging from United’s academy such as Marcus Rashford, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, and Jesse Lingard, Zlatan will hope to be the catalyst that can inspire the next generation.

The 17th August marked the 20th anniversary of that goal David Beckham scored against Wimbledon and he said he was happier about the fact that Eric Cantona came up to me afterwards and said, ‘Good goal’. That was better than scoring the goal for me”. From this response about a goal that propelled Becks to stardom, it is clear to see how much of an influence the Frenchman had on the younger players at that time. Zlatan will hope to exert the same amount of influence on United’s current youngsters.

Zlatan understands that as a senior member of the United squad he has a responsibility to tutor the younger players. Take Marcus Rashford for example, who was United’s bright spark in a disappointing season last year, has only just started his professional career and has a lot to learn. Who better to learn his trade off from a man who is arguably one of the best strikers of his generation, who has scored nearly 400 career goals for some of the biggest clubs in the world, including Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Barcelona. When all is said and done, Ibra has won titles wherever he has been and United, before he signed, lacked a true ‘winner’, someone who instills that mentality into the rest of the dressing room. Under Sir Alex, United had winners and characters such as Cantona, and Zlatan can have a similar effect. It is rumored that Ibrahimović will stay at United for two years. After his time at Old Trafford concludes, who will be United’s leading striker? Rashford will certainly a name in contention and if he can learn off a player of Zlatan’s stature, he will certainly be in good stead to lead the line.

So far Ibrahimović has proven his critics wrong who believed he wouldn’t be able to make an impact in the Premier League. He will thrive on people doubting his ability, and he will no doubt have his own personal goals to achieve. The young players will see him as someone who they can aspire to be like, as Zlatan keeps proving he still has a massive role to play on and off the pitch for United.

Written by Jonny Webb

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