Manchester United’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth featured three archetypal goals. First, Juan Mata capitalized on a poor back pass in Robin van Persie-esque fashion to finish coolly. Then, Wayne Rooney controlled and finished Anthony Martial’s miscued volley with his only good touch of the match. However, the goal to remember was a fabulous 25-yard screamer from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who struck a wonderful shot in the bottom corner after Martial created space for him.
Ibrahimovic’s goal was a wonderful moment for United fans as it secured the match in emphatic fashion, but it was also a moment that displayed Ibrahimovic’s defiance of expectations. Nobody else at Manchester United, barring Memphis and maybe Martial or Mata is capable of coming close to that level of clinical finishing from range. The effort displayed his incredible statistics that defy his age and the media stigma behind it. No player in Europe’s top five leagues has scored as many goals from outside the box since the beginning of last season than Ibrahimovic (seven). Ibrahimovic also scored on his debuts in La Liga, the Eredivisie, Ligue 1, Serie A, the Champions League and the Swedish League.
It was a moment for everyone at United to be proud of, including Ibrahimovic himself. While he was happy to score and said it made him feel alive, he said it also didn’t matter who scored, as long as the ball was in the back of the net. Ibrahimovic seems to be incredibly content with merely being a part of United’s success, but that doesn’t neutralize his desire to do so much more for the team and himself.
“It was good, very good. I feel alive. I always try to create some chances, help my team-mates, whoever scored today was not important. Only get the win to start the Premier League well.”
Ibrahimovic was content with the match and his first experiences in the Premier League as well, admitting to struggling throughout the first half. However, he believed the second half offered a more open playing field for himself and his new teammates, allowing him to make a difference in the game despite the surprisingly difficult nature of playing last year lowly Bournemouth.
“I found it was a good game, not easy, the first half was hard. The second became easier. We found our game much more in the second half and scored a second and third one. The game then was, not easier, but much more open.”
Zlatan’s comments only add ammunition to the concept that it is more difficult to play in the Premier League than any other league- regardless of what people will tell you, he remains at his best despite his age- he turns 35 in October. Ibrahimovic looks ready to prove his doubters wrong once again, and after scoring in every appearance for United so far (competitive or non-competitive), he is well equipped to do so.
Ibrahimovic will be vital to conquering any challenges United face this season, and he has both a short and long-term role to play at the club. He will be massive in United’s efforts to phase the reliance on Marcus Rashford. If he is at the club for two seasons, which Mourinho has made seem likely regardless of his one-year contract, he will likely start two-thirds of United’s games (approx. 40) in his first season and half in his second (approx. 30). He believes he could stay at United for more than two years, which would also reduce United’s reliance on Rashford, who will hopefully be United’s main striker by then. People often forget that Rashford is still just 18, and he won’t be leading the line alone for United and England for at least 4-5 years.
In the short term, though, Ibrahimovic brings a level of arrogance, understanding, and experience to United in a time when it seemed they were lacking in it. He will prove vital to the endless list of young attacking talent at the club, including Rashford, Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira, Adnan Januzaj, Jesse Lingard and many more. Hopefully, he can also bring the Premier League title, and he can then pick up the only piece of major club silverware not yet in his trophy cabinet- the Champions League.