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Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Signing of the Season?

People were quick to judge Manchester United’s signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 35 years old, with prepositions that he wouldn’t be able to handle the physical guile of the Premier League. Denying that he would be able to score goals and consigning him to similar fates as Radamel Falcao, United’s last big-name striker signing, Ibrahimovic’s quality was ignored with the hope that it would go away as a result.

However, his personality shone through, and 20 Manchester United goals later, Ibrahimovic’s impact on the pitch has silenced his doubters without any difficulty. Zlatan looks, and maintains the physique of a player with a decade fewer years than himself, offering incredible strength, the ability to turn, movement between the lines, and even the occasional dribbling and turn of pace.

Ibrahimovic could reasonably play a part for Manchester United for a long time if he maintains his form- perhaps not as a starting player, but he influences United monumentally on the pitch and that wouldn’t change unless he experienced a significant technical decline. Considering this fact, and that United got him on a free transfer, and he is already arguably the best signing of the season. Combine that with his influence off the pitch, and he becomes an even more phenomenal player.

Zlatan’s effect on the club off the pitch seems to have been massive, adding his enthusiastic, vibrant personality to the side. His influence on the younger players at Manchester United makes him an even greater presence. Looking at the senior squad and seeing a player as big as Ibrahimovic, youth players will undoubtedly feel motivated, and this becomes clear when Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba’s comments in the media are considered.

Pogba referred to Ibrahimovic as his big brother, with a winning mentality, stating that he is integral to United if the Red Devils are to reach their potential this season. Pogba’s relationship with Ibrahimovic on and off the pitch is very clear, shown by their camaraderie in press conferences, and their combination to create goals that have won matches for United.

“Ibrahimovic is like a big brother. He has a winning mentality, a great player. He’s very important in Manchester, with him we can reach our objectives.” – Pogba on Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic has also helped Marcus Rashford with his game during his first few months at United, and as he gains his coaching badges (which he started when he joined United), he is already becoming an important part of United’s development for the future by helping one of the greatest youth prospects at the club.

“Playing as a lone striker is a bit different because you are on your own and obviously it depends on what centre-halves you are up against and what their skills and their characteristics are. But Zlatan has been a big help. He has spoken to us a lot about things he has come up against in the past and you have to listen because he has been there, he has done it and he has won a lot of trophies and that is what we all want to do.” – Rashford on Ibrahimovic

Rashford’s description of Ibrahimovic’s influence, though, was the most eye-opening indicator of the Swede’s impact since joining Manchester United.

“It is important we listen and take his advice on board. For instance, it is not just about his strength. He puts his body in the right areas and these are things you pick up on. It is about trying to put those things into your own game. He has looked after his body well since he was a young professional. That is why he can still play at this age now. It is a small thing and one that a lot of people do not look at but for him to be playing and still competing at that age is amazing.”

Ibrahimovic’s dedication to his football has become influential to others at the club, but also, he remains an example for fitness at United. Rashford is learning from the beginning of his professional career what Wayne Rooney still seemingly doesn’t know- maintaining personal fitness is one of the key factors in allowing players to be successful into their 30s.

Therefore, it would be ludicrous to suggest anything but the fact that Ibrahimovic is the signing of the season in world football this year. Influencing United on and off the pitch, scoring key goals, and creating an impact that will last longer than his career at the club, Ibrahimovic is the true leader of this Manchester United squad, which is a priceless attribute. Priceless is an ironic term, though, considering he joined Manchester United for free.

Written by Aaron Moniz

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