Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Marcus Rashford’s perfect mentor

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Scissor Kick

Manchester United was able to take a lot of positives following the recent 5-2 win over Galatasaray in the friendly match in Sweden. One of, if not the most important thing to take from the game, was how clear it seems that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is already helping Marcus Rashford reach his highest potential. Being able to lift anyone of their seats is already an achievement, but Ibrahimovic’s reaction to Rashford’s run was simply on another level.

Rashford’s run came at an important time when United was looking to get back into the game, and due to his exceptional pace and skill, he was able to earn a penalty, which was converted by club captain Wayne Rooney, scoring United’s third of the day. 18-year-old Rashford, who burst into the spotlight last season after making an exceptional impact from his debut with the club, has commented on how he hopes to learn from Ibrahimovic.

In a recent interview with MUTV, Rashford commented on his thoughts on the game:

“It’s really important to get that first win together as a group, it’s great for us in the build-up to the season. The manager wasn’t concerned [with United being 2-1 down at half-time] and just told us to push and close the space, something we did really well in the second half.”

“There’s a lot of optimism, as that is only our second pre-season game as a full squad – it was the first game for some players, It is very exciting for both fans and players.”

He then went on to comment on the importance of working alongside a superstar such as Ibrahimovic, who is able to lead him on the right path. This is due to Ibrahimovic’s age of 34, he has a variety of different experiences. Rashford stated:

“We can definitely all learn from him while he is here, so we all need to take that chance. It’s a massive help to be with him every day and it’s great to see what he is like on and off the pitch. There is a lot to learn from him and hopefully I can bring some of his game into mine.”

He finished off his interview with a very mature statement for an 18-year-old:

“I’m preparing for the new season now, There’s no need to rush into anything – I’m taking my time, taking it steady.”

His comments highlight how beneficial Ibrahimovic can be to the club, both on and off the field. Being able to have a mentor, which can still play at a world class level, but distribute his knowledge and experience to others can be very important to any football side. Manchester United have a variety of youth players who are in need of that mentoring, in the hopes that they reach their full potential. Our current squad consists of experienced players such as Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Michael Carrick, alongside Ibrahimovic, who are in charge of helping the youth and provide them with the experience they need. Schweinsteiger and Carrick are experienced midfielders who would help players such as Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin. Rooney, whilst has had most of his elite years playing at a striker, has moved into the number 10 position as of recent years, and so whilst he could help Rashford, he would be helping players such as Andreas Pereira and even Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

In this current period of time, it seems that Ibrahimovic would be the go-to striker for Jose Mourinho, and Rashford is likely to be second in line. Mainly coming on as a substitute in most games, even starting some games depending on the competition. Whilst it would seem ideal, as it seems that Rashford is hungry to outperform his expectations, it would be hard to play both Ibrahimovic and him alongside each other since one other player from the team would have to be replaced. With Ibrahimovic’s ability to do what others wouldn’t even think of and Rashford’s natural talent, they could prove to be a devastating combination for United. The problem is that Rashford’s inclusion in the starting XI is that another attacker will have to give way, and that is likely to be either, Anthony Martial, Rooney, or whoever plays along the right.

That is another possibility that Jose Mourinho needs to take into consideration. Last season, we saw both Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard play on the right, and dropping both might not be seen as ideal since both have more experience there than Rashford does. Mkhitaryan is also another player who would most likely be dropped, and it seems that Mourinho would favour him in the number 10 position, even if he doesn’t play every game. Mkhitaryan commented on his playing time, by saying:

“It doesn’t matter if they buy me for, I don’t know, €38m or €40m, I am not guaranteed to play the games, so I am trying to do my best during the training to earn this place to play and then we will see.

“I don’t think I will play every game, depending on the tactical situation, depending on the opponent, but I will do everything to try and help the team.

“In this club, you have to try and do everything to show your best qualities, otherwise you will not be here anymore.”

At this current moment in time, Rashford is still a striker, and at the young age of 18, it isn’t a bad thing that he ends up being second in line to the influential Ibrahimovic. In most recent years, Ibrahimovic has turned into the guy that provides the youth around him in what to do, making him a dominant player. In Paris Saint-German and the Swedish national team, Ibrahimovic was a leader more than ever. His former international teammate John Guidetti admitted that Ibrahimovic can be very inspiring, by stating:

“The way he speaks with all the younger players, the way he demands quality, it is a true pleasure to play with him.

“There will never be another Zlatan: he’s a one-off. The way that he talked and behaved has inspired me.”

Personally, I believe that this is the type of player that Marcus Rashford needs around him. Many youngsters in the past have struggled to live up to a sudden change of expectations and a different environment and often end up dipping in form due to new challenges. Jose Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic should aim to work together and help Rashford in every way possible to improve his play throughout the game. Mourinho should stick to what he has done in the past, make decisions that he feels needs to be made, which then leads to Ibrahimovic agreeing to step down at certain stages and let Rashford play upfront. Rashford has already outdone what many expected of the young English International, and should now look to break the new barriers, and he needs the support of his manager and mentor.

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