When Jose Mourinho was appointed Manchester United manager in the summer, it generated a lot of hype and optimism around the club. Combine that with the record signing of Paul Pogba, and an experienced veteran in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and suddenly United were title contenders despite Mourinho’s meltdown at Chelsea that saw him get the sack and United finishing outside the top four again for the second time in three seasons.
United could well have been title contenders this season if it wasn’t for silly points dropped. A few draws at home against Stoke, Burnley and Arsenal saw United drop six points in games that they dominated and really should have won.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been in fantastic goalscoring form recently, with 17 goals in all competitions this season. He believes United shouldn’t give up hope of the title just yet, as United sit in sixth place, 13 points of leaders Chelsea, despite only losing three times this season. Sky Sports reported the Swedish stars interview with ESPN, saying;
“I’m happy, but I could be happier. We had our moments where the results haven’t been what they should have been after good performances, but we are still there and we have been closing the gap.
“So, hopefully, the other teams can do some mistakes and close the gap even more. We are working hard for it, believing in it, we are here to win.
“We have no excuses, we are here for what we are able to do and that’s win a title.”
This winning mentality is why the signing of Zlatan was seen as a coup for United. The big Swede has won titles in Spain, Italy, France and the Netherlands- basically, wherever he has been, he has triumphed. In my opinion, United have lacked that sort of spirit in the squad for a few years now, especially since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
As previously mentioned, Ibrahimovic is in brilliant form at the moment and he grabbed his 50th club goal of 2016 in the 3-1 win over Sunderland on Boxing Day. If he scores 2 against Middlesbrough on Saturday, that would see him pass Lionel Messi, who leads the year for goals with 51. However, this is something that Ibrahimovic is not thinking about;
“I talk with my feet, I don’t get paid to talk with my mouth. I get paid to talk with my feet and that’s exactly what I’m doing.
“I go into a season to do better than last season, because I know my last season was perfect, so I try to do it more than perfect and this is what I’ve been doing for the last 15 years. So what I’m doing now is nothing new, it’s just another season in my story.”
In the back of his mind, I’m sure Zlatan is thinking about this record. The Swede prides himself on being the best and always being at the top. To finish ahead of Lionel Messi, in this day and age, in any achievement or record would be an impressive feat, so I have no doubts that Ibrahimovic will be conscious of the achievement at stake on Saturday.
As for United’s title hopes, realistically, I think it has gone. Too many silly draws and slip ups have cost United crucial points. However, next season, if United are in the top three and only six points at the most off the top, around this time next season, then you never know.