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Share the load! Does Zlatan need his own Samwise Gamgee?

Everyone needs a friend like Sam from Lord of the Rings, he recognised the strain his friend was going through and would do anything to help him. Of course, the story was not as simple as that otherwise, the films would have been over in two minutes rather that what seems like two weeks. For Manchester United, their season holds a similar resemblance. Both the films and United’s season saw their very own, and very different heroes stepping up and carry the hopes and dreams of their teams on their shoulders. Everything seemed so simple at the start, the objective was clear to see, just take something and carry it to a rather large summit. Simple, right?

Both of our heroes have realised now that this is not the case. With recent reports being that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is feeling “tired” its hardly surprising. His shoulders must be tired from carrying a giant for the whole season. He is United’s top scorer, by a country mile, but that is not the whole story. The pressure placed upon his shoulders seems to have made him even better, to say he has thrived in an understatement. When there has been lows, Zlatan has been there to save the day popping up with vital goals out of nowhere, case and point Crystal Palace away. When the team around him have not been performing he has been there flapping his arms around willing the world around him to step it up a notch.

But the season is coming to its later stages now. It has seemed at points that it is not just the spectators around him who have stopped and stared in awe, but also his team mates around him. In the time he spent out of the squad due to suspension, it felt as though team team could not carry on without their hero, no one wanted to carry “the ring” in this metaphor. Now he has returned and once again he has taken the role as hero, scoring a penalty against Everton at the death and opened the scoring against Sunderland. So these recent comments are not a surprise, he needs help and he needs this both from his team and his manager.

Ignoring these comments could lead to a burnout, surely a crisis to the plot of this season’s story. But how exactly is this avoided? Well for a start the player’s around him need to act as Zlatan’s very own Sam, they need to let him know that they are there to “share the load”. They need to show that he is not alone in this, how many times have United fans been left wondering where the Martial from las t season is? The same man who stepped up last year when very few others did, where is that fight this season? A front line consisting of others such as Martial and Mkhitaryan should not be short of goals, yet without their leader it very often is.

Then there is the playing style of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the style of play that leaves spectators questioning if he has been on the pitch besides the moments he is scoring. While he very often drops deep to receive the ball, he is more suited to the fox in the box style of play. Hanging of the least man and popping up in the right places to score the goals. So when is the best time to substitute him? Is there a good time? How many times has it seemed as though Zlatan has disappeared and then the next minute he is stood in front of the fans absorbing the applause? This style of play epitomises his class but it could also be is worst enemy right now, he has given his manager no choice but to leave him on the pitch even if it does not seem viable.

On the note of the manager, surely Mourinho must be thinking about giving Zlatan some rest time but how can he? How can he deprive his first team of his ability when he’s in this kind of form? Jose will have to think carefully as to how he is going to manage this situation in particular. Rashford has looked far more lively since his goal against Sunderland but does this mean he is ready to step up as United’s number nine for the final 20 minutes of certain games?

For Ibrahimovic’s team mates the time has come to share the burden that has been thrown at him. Once the team shows what they are capable of then surely the manager can trust them enough to rest the big number nine. He is simply far too important to the rest of United’s season and achieving their goal (Champions League). Frodo would not have been successful on his own and neither will Zlatan, his team mates need to admire his importance while also providing the support he needs. Although he would most likely not care to admit it, Ibrahimovic can not do this alone, despite doing his best so far.

Written by Anthony Withington

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