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Zlatan Ibrahimović: Man Utd’s new talisman?

 

While Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann have been rightly hailed as the world’s top players, Zlatan Ibrahimović has just gone about his business of scoring buckets of goals at some of the biggest clubs in Europe for the past decade.

The Sweden international had made it clear he wanted to play in England for a while to add another top league to his CV, and duly landed at Manchester United in the summer under Jose Mourinho.

The Portuguese tactician has always been a big admirer of the giant hit-man and has not been let down by the 35-year-old.

Ibrahimovic’s stats compare favourably to most strikers around but it is not just his goals and assists that make him such a valuable player.

While it is true that his volume of goals makes the former Barcelona ace one of the best weekend fantasy picks, his overall contribution to the team effort and air of confidence he exudes tend to rub off on his team-mates.

It has been noticeable this season that, when the Red Devils score, the players inevitably gravitate towards Ibrahimović and he embraces them all like a father figure.

United stars such as Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba have spoken of just what it means to have the ex-PSG forward in the ranks and the difference he makes to the side as a whole.

He began this season well before a slight dip in goal production but was still the first name on the team sheet, as Mourinho knows just what he can do to opposition defences.

Centre halves can never rest when he is in the line-up as he possesses the ability to mix it with the toughest defenders around while also bringing other players into the game with his skill on the ball.

While never blessed with searing pace, his finishing instincts are up there with the best and he was again on the score sheet to bag the winner as United took care of Blackburn Rovers 2-1 on Sunday to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

A hat-trick on Thursday night has put Mourinho’s side in charge of their Europa League clash with Saint Etienne and Ibrahimovic appears to be hitting top form at just the right time.

He now has 24 goals from 36 appearances in all competitions this term and has netted 416 times across eight clubs after beginning his career with Malmo back in 1999.

Ever since the much-travelled striker arrived in Manchester, the talk in the media has been about whether he will extend his one-year deal at the club.

Questions have been raised about his age but, on this season’s showing so far, the former Inter star has plenty of miles left in his legs and much to offer United.

He gets on well with Mourinho and has stated that the boss was one of the reasons he moved to the North West, and it would be no surprise to see him back next year to try and aid the club’s return to the top of English football.

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