ZLATAN MAY SLOW US DOWN…
By Sam Peoples, The Peoples Person
ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC lived up to his reputation in his debut Manchester United season – but I fear his second may not be as fruitful.
Only a cruel double ligament injury stopped Zlatan from becoming our first striker since Robin van Persie to score over 30 goals.
A return doesn’t come as a surprise, but is it the right thing to do for Man United?
Nobody can argue against Ibrahimovic’s presence as an individual.
His cocksure confidence helped United regain our identity last season.
Players around him pushed their shoulders back and United stormed to a cup double in Mourinho’s first year in charge.
This was thanks largely to Ibrahimovic’s 28 goals and the influence he had on all those who lined up with him.
He’s no Eric Cantona but his impact was profound on a squad which lost its winning mentality and arrogance.
However, for all of his goals there was a lot of frustration about Ibrahimovic’s style of play and lack of clinical finishing.
Nobody missed more clear-cut opportunities for United last season than Zlatan and his instinct to drop deeper to receive the ball left United without a striker when crosses were fired into the box.
With a real lack of pace, Ibrahimovic wasn’t able to play the same sort of role Romelu Lukaku is shining in this season. And herein lies the issue with United re-signing Ibrahimovic.
Will a man who refers to himself as “god”, “king” and a “lion” really be willing to accept a bit-part squad role at United this season behind Lukaku as our main No9?
From an egotistical point of view, Ibrahimovic will be chomping at the bit to return.
He wants to add the Premier League medal to his collection – he’ll be desperate to win it this year. However, Zlatan’s return has to benefit United first and foremost.
I love seeing Ibrahimovic back in a United shirt but this season he will have to be willing to be a squad player rather than one of the first names on the team sheet every week.
When fit, Ibrahimovic started pretty much every match last year and was never substituted by Mourinho – that simply couldn’t be the case this season.
United’s storming start to the season with eight goals in two games has got fans rubbing their hands together.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen such ruthless goalscoring that doesn’t stop after one or two.
A huge factor behind that is the pace in the team; Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba are putting Lukaku in behind defences and they cannot catch him.
Replace him with Ibrahimovic and that simply isn’t possible, United won’t have that pace up front and our style will have to be adapted because of it.
There are certainly matches where Ibrahimovic’s presence and experience could prove crucial for United.
We’re back in the Champions League this year and while Zlatan may have never won the competition, having somebody like him as an option is something Mourinho will love to have.
On the other hand, United’s thrilling start to this year has been built around a style of football Ibrahimovic isn’t capable of being directly involved in and that’s going to be the big question mark over his return to United.
Fans do have concerns about United bringing Ibrahimovic back, both from a playing style point of view and in how much Mourinho might default to starting him more often than not.
What we’ve seen at the start of this season is a new-look United and I do fear that the return of Zlatan could see United take a step back towards the style of 2016/17 at times.
That being said, can United really afford to say no to bringing back a striker so prolific?