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Zlatan Ibrahimovic left an indelible mark at Manchester United

Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed for Manchester United as a free agent in the summer of 2016 after leaving Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the 2015/16 season. The Swedish international signed a one-year contract at the Old Trafford club and because of his age, it was suggested that he would not achieve much at the club. That will be something that the striker looks back on and laughs at, even into his old age. The Swede just fit in at United immediately and showed his class and leadership – which was needed.

United’s third-choice goalkeeper, Lee Grant, who arrived after Ibrahimovic left the Old Trafford club, has lifted the lid on what it was like at the club with Zlatan there, seemingly in the perspective of the players who were there during the Swede’s 21 months at the club. Ibrahimovic was offered a new one-year contract at the club at the end of his first season, which ended on the sidelines after suffering ligament damage to his right knee in a UEFA Europa League match, missing the rest of the season.

During his short-lived career at United, Zlatan made a total of 53 appearances, scoring 29 goals and 10 assists, which at the age of 36, which was his age when he left the club, was a great achievement. It was a shame that it was not going to work at United with the player moving onto LA Galaxy in the MLS as a free agent. It was good to see the player actually play for United, which should have happened years ago and could have resulted in more trophies for the club and for the man himself.

Grant, who signed for United in July 2018, almost four months after Zlatan departed for Los Angeles, heard many stories from his new teammates about Zlatan, a player that he had faced in October 2016 when United drew 1-1 with Stoke City. The 37-year-old goalkeeper recently spoke to the official Manchester United website about Zlatan, albeit through stories passed on by his teammates, showing the indelible mark that the Swede left at the Theatre of Dreams on his departure, something the player will be proud of. Grant said:

“His period at the club had just come to an end but the lads would talk about him constantly. ‘Do you remember when Zlatan did this?’

“‘Do you remember him getting on to such and such in training and he nearly made him cry?’ ‘Do you remember that thing he does, the kung-fu kick over his head?’

“‘Do you remember Zlatan scored that goal? Do you remember when he nutmegged that guy and absolutely took the [micky]?’

“I thought, ‘Oh my god, who is this Zlatan character?’ but that was what it was like all the time.”

Grant then spoke about his only meeting against Zlatan, a 1-1 draw with Stoke City, Grant’s former club in October 2016 – a match in which Anthony Martial opened the scoring in the 69th minute of the match with Joe Allen equalising eight minutes from time. The United goalkeeper spoke confidently about his match against this Zlatan character who his teammates seemed to miss dearly, always reminiscing him. Grant then said, jokingly:

“I had him on toast. He’s in my pocket here somewhere. Of course, I wouldn’t say that to his face. If I was training against him, I would imagine he would have me on toast more than I had him on toast but that was a good day for me.”

Ibrahimovic is now back at AC Milan, in what is his third stint at the club having left LA Galaxy in November 2019. During the January transfer window, the Swede signed for Milan for the remainder of the season. On the 1 August 2020, still playing competitive football because of the coronavirus pandemic and the three-month delay on world football, Zlatan became the oldest player to have scored 10 Serie A goals aged 38 years and 302 days, breaking the record of Silvio Piola which was set in the 1950s. Ibrahimovic has played a total of 761 club matches, scoring 467 goals and 185 assists during his career so far, which may well continue.

Written by John Walker

Anthony Martial left angry and let down after losing the number nine shirt four years ago

Manchester United forward Anthony Martial was let down by the decision to remove his number nine shirt when Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived at the club in the summer of 2016 and it was something that dented his morale at the time. It was something that then manager Jose Mourinho was criticised for, but seemed to weather.

During his time at United, Ibrahimovic scored 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 matches before leaving for LA Galaxy in March 2018, ending his time at the Old Trafford club, which at the time of his arrival was heavily criticised because of the player’s age. He did well at the club and despite an injury, helped United to an EFL Cup and UEFA Europa League double.

Former United left-back Patrice Evra stated that the removal of the number nine shirt dented Martial’s confidence after a fine start at the club in which he scored 17 goals and nine assists in 43 appearances during there 2015/16 season, a season which also saw the end of Louis van Gaal, with United winning the Emirates FA Cup.

This season, Martial seems to have improved, scoring 19 goals in all competitions so far, adding six assists, making 38 appearances in total. Against Sheffield United, the Frenchman scored his first hat-trick for the club and United’s first since Ibrahimovic scored one against Saint-Etienne in February 2017. Martial was not seen as a central striker whilst Mourinho managed the club, also removing him of his favourite number. Evra said:

“I think he had a brilliant start when he played under [Louis] van Gaal. hen I remember one episode, unfortunately I think they let him really down when they swapped the shirt with Zlatan.

“I remember we were in the national team and he received a call from the club and they say you have to give your No. 9 shirt, and he was like, ‘no, absolutely not’.

“But after, Mourinho contacted him to say Zlatan is going to take the No. 9 and you’re going to take the No. 11. ‘It’s not like I’m going to say Martial’s been not playing well because of that number shirt, but it started from there.”

Mourinho was sacked in December 2018 and Solskjaer was brought in as the caretaker manager, then given the job permanently the following March. Also, with Ibrahimovic out of the picture, Martial was given his old shirt number back and seems to be heading in the right direction once again. Evra concluded by saying:

“I remember at the beginning of the season I went to Carrington and Martial was really upset and really frustrated because he was injured.

“And I was like, ‘wow, Anto, that’s really impressive because last time I saw you weren’t that enthusiastic, and now when you’re injured you want to come back really fast to help the team’.

“So, for me, from now I think United are going to get the best of Anthony Martial. Not only because he scored his hat-trick but his attitude is where you want to play for Man United. Martial can destroy any defender if he decides.

“That’s why it’s really frustrating. Many people know his talent, you can ask Wayne Rooney, he’s one of the best No.9s. But he needs that aggressiveness to score goals, that anger, it’s more about his personality.”

The Second Wave of Manchester United’s ‘Galacticos’

In the years preceding the summer of 2016, a major issue that was cited as contributing to Manchester United’s downfall was a lack of characters in the dressing room. The departure of vocal leaders such as Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, had a stark impact on the morale of the dressing room. However, in the summer of 2016, Manchester United continued their ‘Galactico’ transfer policy, in spite of its previous failure with Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao.

Jose Mourinho was appointed as manager, a charismatic and ego-driven manager, who could be seen as a managerial ‘Galactico’ signing. Following the arrival of the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba were the imminent arrivals, both of whom possessed the leadership qualities that were previously missing at the club. 

The signing of the Swedish striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was the first of Mourinho’s elite stars. The towering Swede arrived at Old Trafford with a sensational goal record. In his time at Paris Saint-Germain, Ibrahimovic netted 113 goals in 122 games. Furthermore, the self-titled ‘Lion’ had won league titles at five of his previous seven clubs. The CV of Ibrahimovic, combined with his infamous leadership skills, meant that the Swede was the ideal signing for a dejected and goal-deprived Manchester United squad.

Furthermore, the fact that Ibrahimovic arrived on a free transfer, meant that any qualms surrounding his age were counteracted. In spite of his ego-driven sentiment, Ibrahimovic didn’t disappoint. On his professional debut for the ‘Red Devils’, Ibrahimovic powered home a header at Wembley in the FA Community Shield, which proved to be the decisive goal for Manchester United.

Furthermore, Ibrahimovic began his league career for United in spectacular fashion. In his first two Premier League games, Ibrahimovic bagged three goals, including a spectacular long-range effort on his league debut. However, following his spectacular start, Ibrahimovic encountered a slight dry period for United, only scoring two goals in his next nine appearances.

In spite of his brief goal-scoring struggles, Ibrahimovic excelled in the following months. Following breaking his goal-scoring duck with two superb goals against Swansea City, Ibrahimovic went on to score an astonishing 20 goals in his next 20 games. In the midst of his astonishing goal-scoring streak, Ibrahimovic provided a vital last-minute equaliser against arch-rivals Liverpool, as well as propelling United’s UEFA Europa League progress by scoring a hat-trick against Saint-Etienne.

In spite of these vital goals from Ibrahimovic, his most memorable moment in a United shirt came against Southampton in the League Cup final. Not only did ‘Ibra’ fire United into the lead through a stupendous free kick, but he also scored an 87th-minute winner, almost single-handedly winning the silverware for United. But unfortunately for both the player and the club, the Swede’s season was about to end prematurely.

On the 20 April 2017 in a Europa League tie against Anderlecht, Ibrahimovic landed awkwardly from an aerial duel, and in the process acquired an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury. This devastating injury ended Ibrahimovic’s season and to a large extent his United career. While Ibrahimovic did extend his stay at United, the impact of his injury had taken a toll on the forward.

Following some brief cameo appearances in December 2017, Zlatan Ibrahimovic departed United for LA Galaxy. In spite of the devastating end to his United career, Ibrahimovic was undoubtedly a resounding success for United and Mourinho. In the 2016/17 season, Ibrahimovic provided 28 goals while playing a vital role in United’s clinching of the League Cup, the Europa League and the Community Shield. But for Ed Woodward it provided a poignant message, Galacticos could be successful.

Following the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Manchester United splashed out a world record £89 million on Paul Pogba. Similarly to the summer of 2014, the signing of Pogba for a United side lacking Champions League participation was seen as an extraordinary acquisition. With four Serie A title to his name at the age of 23, the Frenchman was viewed as the hottest midfield prospect in Europe.

Due to his previous stint at United and his friendship with players such as Jesse Lingard, the general consensus was that Pogba would settle in fairly comfortably at United. However, the 2016/17 season was a mixed season for the midfielder. Statistically speaking, Pogba only provided eight goals and five assists in the Premier League and the Europa League. In addition, Pogba came under repeated criticism for his ego-driven off-pitch persona, which came to the fore in the launch of his ‘Pogmoji’ brand on the day he conceded a penalty against Liverpool.

In spite of the criticism Pogba received, his opening goal against Ajax in the Europa League final was arguably the most important goal of United’s season. The Europa League triumph of United not only obtained silverware but also meant that United gained qualification for the Champions League in the 2017/18 season. 

In the 2017/18 season, United and Pogba got off to a flying start. The ‘Red Devils’ won six of their first seven games, scoring twenty-one goals in the process. Pogba provided two goals and two assists in the four games he played in United’ extraordinary run, emphasising how crucial the Frenchman was to United’s purple patch. However, in a UEFA Champions League encounter with FC Basel, Pogba limped off with a hamstring injury and faced six weeks on the sidelines as a result.

In the wake of Pogba’s injury, United was defeated by Chelsea and most surprisingly of all, Huddersfield Town. The impact of Pogba on United’s performances was illustrated by the fact that with Pogba, United picked up 2.75 points per game, and without him the picked up 1.85 points per game. Following a difficult festive period in which United dropped points against Burnley and Leicester City, the relationship between Paul Pogba and Mourinho began to deteriorate.

Following an on pitch dispute between the pair in a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, Pogba’s ‘unstoppable’ status was erased. The most notable example of this came in United’s 2-1 home defeat to Sevilla, which as a result knocked United out of the Champions League. As opposed to starting the club’s record signing, Mourinho chose to include youth prospect Scott McTominay in the side, a decision which ultimately came back to bite Mourinho. This decision planted the seed for a monumental fall out in the following season.

Following a FIFA World Cup victory with France, Pogba was made vice-captain of United by Mourinho. This was seen as a potential turning point in the relationship between the pair. However, following Pogba’s public criticism of Mourinho’s tactics, the so-called ‘Special One’ stripped Pogba of the vice-captaincy. In addition, a training ground row between the manager and the player signified that their relationship was broken beyond the pair.

In Mourinho’s final months in charge, Pogba became a regular inclusion on the substitutes bench. The exclusion of Pogba from the side did nothing to help United’s results, and Mourinho was sacked as a result of United’s poor form. The appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw a resurgence in Paul Pogba’s form.

The resurgence of Pogba helped United to win eleven out of their first twelve games under the Norwegian, and many saw this as a turning point in the Pogba’s career at United. However, following a rapid downturn in United’s and Pogba’s form, the Frenchman once again faced an onslaught of criticism. In spite of a mixed season, Pogba obtained a commendable 13 goals and nine assists in the Premier League. 

Following his public announcement of his desire to leave the club, it seems that three years on from his return to United, Pogba will depart once again. The dilemmas surrounded Pogba have emphasised the risk of signing ‘Galacticos’, due to the ego that comes with an elite signing. While Pogba’s United career has seen him win two trophies, and deliver some exceptional goal returns, specifically in the 2018/19 season, there appears to be a lingering feeling that he could’ve achieved much more at United.

While Ibrahimovic’s ego was backed up by on-pitch performances, Pogba has been seen by many as a hindrance on the club’s progress. In comparison to the ‘Gaalcticos’, the 2016 wave of Galacticos has been considerably more successful. The relentless goal-scoring endeavours of Ibrahimovic resoundingly trumped the performances of Radamel Falcao, with Ibrahimovic scoring seven times more goals than the Colombian.

While Ibrahimovic was undoubtedly a success, Paul Pogba’s level of success is more questionable. While the Frenchman’s performances have dwarfed those of Angel Di Maria, the Frenchman’s conflict with Mourinho, as well as his inconsistency on the pitch has been a source of frustration for United. Out of the four Galacticos signed from 2014 to 2016, only one of the elite stars has performed to the expected standard. However, the United Galactico era was drawing to a close following the summer of 2016, but the final Galactico was to be more devastating than the previous four combined.

Written by Alexei Braithwaite

Manchester United must be built around Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba

There is no doubting the abundance of talent within the Manchester United squad, which has been seen during the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer over the past few months. Against all odds, United has risen to the challenges of the season, propelled themselves into a fight for a top four finish in the Premier League, also earning a UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash with Barcelona.

Under Solskjaer, both Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba emerged as driving forces within the squad. Rashford has scored eight goals, assisting twice under Solskjaer with Pogba scoring nine goals and seven assists under the Norwegian. The pair has seemingly gone off the boil of late but there is no doubting their talents. It is something that has been noticed by a former player of the club, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

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Ibrahimovic is now into his second season playing in the MLS for LA Galaxy but recently sat down to an interview with the Mirror, speaking to Andy Dunn. It was in that interview that his praise for the United duo has come to light with the suggestion that United should do everything within their power to get behind them as they ‘have the world at their feet’. Speaking about the duo that he spent 18 months with, Ibrahimovic said:

“I think Paul Pogba has the potential to be the best player in the world in his position. He is a good guy, he trains hard, he listens, he wants to become better, he wants to win. He wants to perform in every game.

“Things happening outside do not really bother him because when you are at that level, everyone will speak. Positive, negative, in between, everybody.

“Rashford is the future of Manchester United. In the beginning, I saw him more as an individual – now he is playing more for the collective. He is using his quality more for the team, not for himself only.

“He has big potential and a big future with United and the special thing is that he comes from the academy. I think he has no limits.”

It is clear that Ibrahimovic respects both Pogba and Rashford and his time at United would have given the duo a lot of knowledge of the game, of which they will both be thankful for. Personally, I thought Ibrahimovic was a great signing for United and it brought some hope and courage for the squad to move on from the doldrums into a period that defined the success of the club.

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I believe that both Pogba and Rashford have the skill and the talent to become world stars of the game. Whilst the Jose Mourinho era of the club cannot be forgotten, the Portuguese manager had instilled something into the pair which has helped them evolve. Ensuring that continues is something that Solskjaer and the hierarchy of the club will need to manage. Hopefully, both remain at the club for a long time.

The one thing that worries me is the fact that Florentin Pogba has never really stopped talking about his brother and the fact he would improve at clubs such as Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona. This talk just does not come from nowhere, there would have to be a conversation between the siblings which started this, which makes me think United could just be a stepping stone for Pogba. I hope I am wrong.

Paul Pogba has proved his worth by helping France win the FIFA World Cup, says Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Former Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes that Paul Pogba has silenced his critics after his FIFA World Cup display which saw him not only scoring in the group stages, despite it being deflected, putting in some good performances, especially against Belgium but also scoring in the final and lifting the trophy his heroes lifted twenty years ago in Paris. Now at LA Galaxy, the Swedish superstar saw first hand the misfortunes of the Frenchman since making his return to the Old Trafford club, the sale summer as Ibrahimovic arrived.

During his time at United, Pogba has been criticised for his transfer fee, his lack of goals which is something clubs should get for the money paid, apparently, also being dropped by Jose Mourinho for lacking playing fluidity, which was shown against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley back in January after Spurs beat United. Pogba has seen himself injured more than was acceptable by Mourinho and his coaches, something which could stem from his love of playing basketball during his off time.

During the World Cup this summer, Pogba’s form was different. He was still a target for criticism and Graeme Souness, who is clearly not a fan, seems to be one of the leading critics of the player. During the World Cup, the bitter former Liverpool player suggested that France coach Didier Deschamps should bench Pogba because he goes missing too often. Those words seem to have come back to haunt Souness, a bit like Ali Dia’s signing at Southampton has come back to haunt him, regularly.

Speaking to Sky Sports about Pogba, Ibrahimovic spoke about playing on the same team as Pogba for two years and how people like to give their opinion. Like it or not, Pogba has achieved a major accolade in his career by winning the World Cup and being one of the players that helped to attain that. In his time as a footballer, he has lost a UEFA Champions League final, a UEFA European Championships final but gone on to win the World Cup, the pinnacle of football. Ibrahimovic said:

“I played with him for two years and people like to give their opinion, which they have the right to do.

“They judge but I think the result speaks for itself.

“You don’t need to answer by your mouth, you can answer by your feet, and do what you are good at. That is the way it is supposed to be and the way I like to do it.

“He is young. He won the World Cup, he was in the Champions League final (with Juventus), the Europa League final (with United), the European (Championship) final (with France) – and he won many titles at Juventus.

“What more is there to say? Just enjoy the games and I know he will become better.”

Pogba will be full of confidence this summer during his rest and rehabilitation for the new season. It is unlikely that he will feature for United in any of the pre-season matches this summer with the fact that Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Marouane Fellaini, Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young and Marcus Rashford will not return to training until Monday 6 August 2018, just four days before United’s opening Premier League match of the season, missing pre-season altogether.

Whilst that was always a factor for some players this summer, it may not have been something that was expected with England, Belgium, and France making the last four of the tournament, with seven United players participating in the World Cup until the close of the tournament. United had 12 players partake in the tournament this summer with Nemanja Matic out after the group stages, David De Gea and Marcos Rojo out in the round of 16 and Victor Lindelof and Fred out in the quarter-finals.

The important thing for Pogba will be pressing on with his United career, full of confidence, transferring that onto the pitch and helping United earn the accolades that every supporter wants them to. We all know what Pogba is capable of. He has shown that this summer whilst playing for France. His participation for his country was simplified, which is something that he needs to carry over to club football. Pogba, despite injury and being dropped by Mourinho, had a good season last season and kicking on from that and glory at the World Cup could create something special.

Graeme Souness, your criticism of Pogba may become the fuel for him to succeed, something that will make you so much more bitter. Hearing you rip him to shreds on Sky Sports and the other television companies stupid enough to employ you will be heard no matter what as Pogba has achieved something you never achieved as a player. That has got to hurt as much as finding out that Ali Dia was not the player you thought you had signed. Pogba will once again make you look stupid, and you know it.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: King of Manchester (2016-18)

“I admire Cantona and I heard what he said. But I won’t be King of Manchester. I will be God of Manchester.”

Speaking like this before even kicking a ball could backfire in a league like that in England with the number of mainland players that fail to get accustomed to the style of play here. But such was the belief and confidence that Zlatan Ibrahimovic had in himself. And with these comments, the Swedish superstar’s reign over Manchester began.

It was time for English football to say hello to Zlatanism. Over the course of his season and a half at United, we’ve seen everything we could – that charismatic arrogance, goals, suspensions and of course being a nuisance and a bully to the opposition defenders.

From being written off because of his style of play and age by the majority of the press, Ibrahimovic had added reason to prove his detractors wrong. In his competitive debut itself, Ibrahimovic managed to pop up at the right place at the right time and scored the winner as United won the season opener at Wembley. It was the beginning of a rollercoaster of a season at Old Trafford.

For a multiple winner in multiple countries, Ibrahimovic brought a winning mentality to a team that was slowly losing that mentality as the club moved away from the Ferguson era. He brought an undeniable aura with him and that arguably was more important than goals in a team that has youngsters like Eric Bailly, Anthony Martial, and Marcus Rashford among others. He was the perfect mentor for these players and Rashford has often spoken about positively about the Swede’s impact on him.

Things last season, unfortunately, went awry with the cruciate ligament injury suffered by Ibrahimovic but the heart, character, and courage shown by him during rehabilitation is none like we’ve ever seen in this country and arguably in the world. This could have potentially been a career ender for a player of his age. While he may not have come back at his level best, it is still a stupendous recovery.

Ibrahimovic’s status among his teammates is something every professional would envy. Jokes on social media aside, the way the squad speaks about him shows the respect he commands and his stature among his peers.

While his style of play and the chances missed during the course of the season left sections of the United faithful frustrated, it cannot be denied that he carried us to an extent last season. He was on course for 30 goals in the season before an injury cut his campaign short so cruelly. His greatest moment has to be his match-winning brace in the EFL Cup Final against Southampton. It was another memorable visit to the national stadium for the Ibrahimovic.

Another one of his memorable outings for United will be the one in Stockholm in the Europa League Final season, though he didn’t play and the hat-trick he got against St. Etienne in the round of 32 of that campaign. It was fitting for him to win his one and only European trophy at his home stadium in the Friends Arena in Sweden. It was a crowning moment for a career that has seen him win over 30 trophies and score over 400 goals. It has to be said that he is one of the greatest strikers of this millennium if not the greatest.

While his dream of winning the Premier League and the Champions League remains unfulfilled and this was not the way he wanted to depart English football, his legacy at United and in Europe remains one of a serial winner. All the best to Ibrahimovic in the latest chapter of a wonderful career and it’s time for the MLS to become the MLZ.

Written by Vivek Menon

Zlatan Ibrahimovic leaves Manchester United by mutual consent

Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has left the club by mutual consent. There were reports in the last few days suggesting that the player will leave the Theatre of Dreams this week to play in the MLS. He has been linked on a number of occasions with LA Galaxy, a team has signed for with reports coming from Sports Illustrated. Ibrahimovic was apparently too old to play in the Premier League when Jose Mourinho brought him to Old Trafford on a free in the summer of 2016 – he only scored 28 goals in his debut season in England.

That season ended abruptly after the Swede suffered a knee injury in a UEFA Europa League match at Old Trafford almost a year ago, which could have ended his career also. Ibrahimovic returned to action from that injury, seven months later, making his return in the 4-1 Premier League victory over Newcastle United on the 18th November 2017. The 36-year-old made six further appearances for United this season, starting his last two appearances. The official Manchester United website released a statement to confirm the Swede’s departure, saying:

“Manchester United confirms that it has agreed to the termination of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s contract with immediate effect. Everyone at the club would like to thank Zlatan for his contribution to the team since his arrival and wishes him well for the future.”

Ibrahimovic himself released a short statement via his own social media channels stating that ‘great things’ come to an end and that it was ‘time to move on’. The former Swedish international thanked the Old Trafford club, his former teammates, the manager, the club’s staff and the supporters, plus anyone who shared this part of his history at the Theatre of Dreams. Ibrahimovic was a winner, came to United to win and did exactly that helping the club win the FA Community Shield and the EFL Cup last season – also playing a part in United’s successful UEFA Europa League winning campaign.

“Great things also come to an end and it is time to move on after two fantastic seasons with Manchester United. Thank you to the club, the fans, the team, the coach, the staff and everybody who shared with me this part of my history. #foreverred”

Ibrahimovic scored a total of 29 goals during his time at Manchester United, not including the goals he scored during the first pre-season tour ahead of his first season at the club. Many of the goals will be memorable but the fact the media, some United supporters and all the ABU’s stated that the Swede was too old to play football in the Premier League, their thoughts were soon changed after the veteran striker proved them all wrong.

Last season was the first time a Manchester United player had scored more than 20 goals in a season for a while, which showed the club the benchmark for success. Ibrahimovic brought his winning mentality to the club, which was something many players had lost, if they even had it in the first place, after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of the 2012/13 season. Having a winner back in the team, a leader, who despite not being the captain, brought that leadership into the team, which helped get results.

If Ibrahimovic had not suffered that devastating injury, he would have played what could have been his last United match in his home country, the UEFA Europa League final, in which United beat Ajax 2-0, earning a place in the UEFA Champions League, a competition Ibrahimovic had wanted to win again. Ibrahimovic still has something to offer world football, which is why he wants to move on. Playing in the MLS may not be the best league in the world, but it is one that the player could continue his career in and still show he has some goals in him.

Thanks for the memories, Zlatan. All the best of luck for the next chapter in your glorious career.

Is there still a place at Manchester United for Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

After a very successful first season at Old Trafford, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s second season hasn’t gone according to plan. This term has been halted by injury and a lack of playing time, and at the ripe old age of 36 is his time at Manchester United coming to an end.

There has been continued speculation that this year might spark then end of his time at United in favour of pastures new, across the pond in the MLS. It would be a crying shame after the impact he had in his first season at Old Trafford, where he won two trophies and led United back into the Champions League.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived in Manchester a proven winner, one of the reasons that Jose Mourinho decided to bring him in. He had won league titles and domestic trophies in every country he had played in scoring plenty of goals along the way, including becoming Paris Saint-Germain’s record goal-scorer in all competitions.

He had a wonderful first season at United after signing as a free agent from PSG. He scored the winner on his competitive debut in the Community Shield against Leicester, and then on his league debut in a 3-1 win away to Bournemouth a week later. In February of the 2016/17 season, the Swede became the oldest player in Premier League history to score 15 or more goals in a single season.

The highlight of the season, for Zlatan came in the League Cup final win, where he scored twice and stared in the 3-2 win at Wembley, which marked his first trophy in England and the twelfth domestic cup of his career.

His first season was an overwhelming success scoring 28 goals in the process, as well as being nominated for the PFA Player of the Year. However, the injury he sustained towards the end of the last season, dampened his hopes to play in the Europa League final in his home country as well as a possible end to his United career as he was only on a one-year-deal.

Nevertheless, United decided to extend his contract and the Old Trafford faithful were excited to have a forward line of Romelu Lukaku and Ibrahimovic. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case this season, and the Swede has only managed to make five appearances, four of those being off the bench.

Yes, when he returned he hadn’t played competitive football for nigh on seven months so it was understandable it would take him time to become match fit and slot back into the squad. The form of Lukaku at the time didn’t help as well, which made it tough for him to get a game. He then sustained another injury only a month after he returned from a serious knee injury which again has cast doubt on his future at Old Trafford.

However, he could still prove a vital player for United not just when he returns this season, as he would provide welcome back up for Lukaku who rarely gets a rest, but he could prove vital for seasons to come.

He is in the twilight of his career, but he is a man who keeps himself incredibly fit and lives a low-key family orientated life. It might not be that he plays week in week out but to have a striker of his calibre on the bench will put fear in defenders and it is obvious he still knows where the net is.

Not only could he prove vital on the pitch but off it as well. United have a core of young attacking talent that needs nurturing not only by the manager, but by players who have been there and won the biggest trophies in football, and have had a sustained career. Players like Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Romelu Lukaku could really learn a thing or two off of the Swede, his advice and methods could really turn them into world-class players.

Zlatan may be coming to later part of his career, but he still has a lot to provide other than just on the pitch. He feels he has a lot more to give in terms of playing and no doubt that United could use a back-up to Lukaku of his nature and class. But to just have the big Swede around the place on a day-to-day basis could prove vital as United look to get back to where they once were, the top of English and European football.

Written by Dan Pearce

Ibrahimovic is getting ready to help the team, not leaving imminently for LA Galaxy – Mourinho

Manchester United forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has recently been linked with an exit from the Theatre of Dreams with the player attracting the interest of the MLS in the United States of America. The reported destination for the Swedish striker was reportedly LA Galaxy, who were interested in the player last year with reports then suggesting Ibrahimovic would sign for the West Coast club in the summer of 2016. Ibrahimovic signed a new one-year contract at Old Trafford though, looking to continue what he started last season.

ESPN have suggested that Ibrahimovic has not yet signed anything to join the MLS side but that they are ready to finance such a deal which would see the Swede lead their line at some point in the future, with the season due to commence in the next few weeks, at least at pre-season level. United manager Jose Mourinho held his pre-conference ahead of the Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Wednesday evening on Monday afternoon with journalists expecting to hear something about the Swede. Mourinho, speaking about the speculation, said:

“He told me nothing about it. The first time I read something or listened to something about that was from you [the media] – I read on some website and I listened to some channel. He never mentioned that to me, so I don’t know.”

Mourinho also confirmed that Ibrahimovic was in the last year of his contract, the one-year contract signed in the summer, also confirming once again that the player had not spoken to him about the speculation linking him to the MLS, also adding that the player has stated that he wants to recover and be ready to help the team. Mourinho said:

“Zlatan is in his last year of [his] contract. If – I’m saying if, because you told me, I repeat: he said nothing about it to me – if that is true and Zlatan wants a future in another club, in another country, we are here to help and to create conditions for it to happen – not to make his life difficult. But the last thing that Zlatan told me was he wants to recover totally and feel ready to help the team.”

Mourinho also confirmed that the player was working really hard to get fit and that he was not out of action because he was injured, saying:

“He’s working hard to be fit. I’m not saying injured because he’s not injured. I think he’s in a moment of trying to feel really ready for the demands of Premier League football.”

The one thing that was mentioned by the manager was that if Ibrahimovic did want to leave Manchester United, maybe in the current transfer window, which closes on Wednesday evening in the United Kingdom – the window opens next month in the USA, which will remain open until May 2018, was that if the player wanted a future at another club, in another country, the club would be there to help him and create the conditions for that to happen, not stand in his way. It may suggest that Ibrahimovic, despite being at United currently, could opt to move before the summer.

Of course, this speculation has been brought forward by the media based on reports that LA Galaxy were ready to finance a deal to sign Ibrahimovic. The way the media works now is that any context is ignored as LA Galaxy may have made it clear that this was something they were looking to do after the expiry of Ibrahimovic’s contract, not right now. That is not specified in the reports and journalists have assumed, because it will generate more interest, which turns into money, for these rumours.

LA Galaxy would surely have to pay a transfer fee to land Ibrahimovic before the expiry of his contract and with Mourinho stating that he has not heard anything from the player to suggest these reports are something that is going to happen imminently, Mourinho is right to shoot down the rumors. Ibrahimovic does seem to be working to achieve full fitness to help Manchester United for the remainder of the season. I don’t think the player would keep anything covered up if he was planning to leave imminently.

Stranger things have happened in football though but I expect Ibrahimovic to be ready and raring to go as soon as he feels fit enough to get stuck into the demands of the Premier League and beyond. Having him fit for this stage of the season, with United still in three competitions and not yet giving up in the league, he could be the difference between United ending their season with a trophy, which many would suggest was something United will be doing, seeing as Manchester City are doing the quadruple and all…

Zlatan Ibrahimovic to play for Manchester United in 2017!

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho believes that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will play for the club again in 2017. The Swedish striker suffered what could have been a career-ending injury in a UEFA Europa League match in April, along with Marcos Rojo and it was deemed that Ibrahimovic would not be back until the second half of the season, penciling him in from January 2018. In his press conference ahead of the Huddersfield Town match on Saturday afternoon, Mourinho suggested his star striker from last season could play again before the end of the year. Mourinho, reported by the official Manchester United website, said:

“Zlatan is here. He’s working here and under our control. He’s working as you would expect – so, so, so hard. But he’s not going to be back in the next week or the next couple of weeks. Let him take his time and be back when everybody feels is the right moment. Do I believe he’ll be back in 2017? Yes, I do. But it’s just a feeling.”

It is something to savour when the big Swede is back in action, he and Romelu Lukaku, along with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial would be some impressive forward line. Of course, there is no guarantee any of them will play together as Mourinho has been playing one out-and-out striker this season but he could opt for two in big matches, which would give United’s opposition something to worry about. The rotation options would see strong United attacking players reserved for each an every match, which would keep players fresh throughout the week, not having much reliance on a particular player.

Earlier on Friday, former Manchester United striker Andy Cole gave an interview with the official Manchester United website and he gave his opinion on Ibrahimovic, also suggesting that he could be back in action for the club, possibly before the end of the year. When talking about the Swede in the gym, Cole said:

“He is doing very good. I had a chat with Zlatan when he was in the gym the other day. I think he is looking forward to coming back, most probably in December or January time. I think he will definitely bring something to the football team, as we already know. After last season, he was fantastic. It will be nice to see him back when he returns.”

Cole then gave his opinion on the player returning in December of January, which is when Mourinho earmarked a return for the player, saying:

“Yeah, December or January time, of course, it is not bad! But like he keeps saying, he is not human. I love his banter and I think his enthusiasm for the game of football, and what he is around the complex, speaks volumes about him.”

It will be a major boost for United once injuries are out-of-the-way, which will never truly be a thing as players will carry injuries for much of the season. At this moment in time though, United are without Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini. Mourinho has confirmed that Marcus Rashford did not suffer an injury on Wednesday evening after scoring that goal against Benfica and Phil Jones, who was on the bench for that match, will be available to face Huddersfield Town on Saturday afternoon at the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield.

copyright: JW