Written for mufclatest.com
When Ibrahimovic, a striker renowned across Europe, chose Manchester United as his next destination, a few eyebrows were raised. The 35-year-old Swede had recently departed Paris Saint-Germain after hitting 154 goals in 179 games for the French side, as stated by the Telegraph, but this wasn’t enough for pundits to justify Mourinho’s summer signing. Ibrahimovic had conquered the beautiful game in top leagues such as Spain’s La Liga and Serie A of Italy, yet Zlatan was branded ‘over-age’ and ‘past it’.
Some even claimed that since he had just come off the back of four years in Paris in a league which, truthfully, isn’t part of the elite level, Ibrahimovic’s stature would be unable to cope with the intensity the Premier League brings. It’s fair to say that the self-proclaimed ‘God of Manchester’ (per Sky Sports) has shown how wrong they were. As we approached the finale of 2016 and the midpoint of the Premier League season, Zlatan further enhances his reputation as one of the world’s deadliest strikers.
The Swedish striker has 17 goals in all competitions at this point, including 12 in the Premier League, Ibrahimovic hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down. As a player who has never relied on pace, rather using his sheer strength to participate in play, Ibrahimovic is becoming arguably the most important player in Mourinho’s side. His goals for United contribute to 41% of their overall Premier League tally this campaign. If fit he is guaranteed to start and, bar a drought between September to November, it is probable he’ll score.
Zlatan has also served chances for his teammates, among the 30 chances he has created for his teammates, collecting three assists, according to Squawka. So, inevitably, Ibrahimovic’s instant impact at Manchester means that several supporters start mentioning him in the same breath as Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie. But, can Zlatan achieve anything close to these Old Trafford greats?
Over the past couple of weeks, Ibrahimovic’s upturn in form means that pundits such as Charlie Nicholas of Sky Sports, have claimed that he is ‘just like Eric Cantona’, obtained from the Express. Indeed, the Swede’s arrogance (in a positive form) is similar to the manner shown by Cantona. For sure, Ibrahimovic has travelled to England too late in his career to come near the honours Cantona gained but, the former Barcelona striker can possibly write his own story at Old Trafford.
Ruud van Nistelrooy was a goal machine during his stay in Manchester. The legendary red recorded 150 goals in 219 games, which lists him as 11th in the club’s all-time goalscoring record, shown by ManUtd.com. Till recently, Van Nistelrooy was the club’s all-time top scorer in European competition and the prolific Dutchman had scored 36 goals in his debut season. With 17 goals midway through the season, there is no reason why Ibrahimovic cannot also hit a tally close to this.
In Sir Alex Ferguson’s eventual season as boss, Robin van Persie showed the form of his life to fire United to their 20th Premier League title. Van Persie was the last notable striker to guarantee a consistent run in the starting lineup. Since his departure, many have tried to settle in the role but have not been able to, like Zlatan has now. Clearly, having a striker who has established his place in the team has meant that Ibrahimovic has been capable of being the prolific attacker we tag him with.
Ibrahimovic’s steady start in English football has reduced Mourinho’s list of problems, meaning that the Portuguese gaffer can focus on other areas on the field to complement Zlatan. The 35-year-old may not stay for longer than two years but hopefully, his impact can prove to be the one which finally shows Manchester United the long forgotten light at the end of the tunnel.