Me Zlatan, You Wrong
You could have called it the crowning glory of a fine debut campaign at Manchester United, except there’s more to come. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored late against Southampton to claim a trophy in the League Cup as well as his 26th goal in 38 games for United, and all by February.
It is a hugely impressive haul, continuing the strike rate he had in a less demanding league with Paris SaintGermain. It also reasserted just how much of a decisive match-winner he is,andatrophywinner.Abigcontribution to go with that big personality.
Thebigquestion,of course,iswhether there is more to come with United after this season; whether he will sign on for another year.
Jose Mourinho stated that the belief at the club is that Ibrahimovic will, although he played on the star’s already heroic status amongst supporters by suggesting they camp outside his house to persuade him. It’s difficult not to wonder whether the 35-year-old is deliberately leaving the question open right now to deepen that status by making himself more wanted, to
create a bit more mystique.
There can be no doubting the proper football substance behind that image, orthatheisstillthesameplayer.When Mourinho was specifically asked whether he himself ever doubted whether Ibrahimovic was still physically able to be such an influential player at the Premier League at the age of 35, he gave an answer that did almost as much as the goals to banish such questions.
“OnlyasillyplayercomestoEngland with35yearsold,andwithasuccessful career that Zlatan had, only a silly one comes here if he doesn’t feel that he can do it so who better to know? Him. Not me, not you, him. So when he decides, 35 years old, to take the challenge, to a country like England, to a clublikeManchesterUnited,whenhe takes that decision, he feels ready. The most important feeling is his.”
Ibrahimovichasmadealotof people eat their words forcing them down throats in the same way he forces in goals like that against Fraser Forster in the 87th minute of the final.
Ibrahimovichasscoredsixinhislast five finals, just as Mourinho has now won 11 of his career 13. If it weren’t for the fact that Ibrahimovic is so creativelyexpressive,youcouldalmostcall him the Portuguese’s representative and spiritual embodiment on a pitch, giventheparallelsbetweenthemfrom their shared history to the way they have been doubted before United.
Zlatan’s record is something to keep inmindwhenhecomesoutwithsome of his more outlandish compliments about himself. He gets away with saying highly self-regarding things that would sound utterly ludicrous if they came from almost anyone else.
That also points to one of football’s eternaltruths.Youcansayalmostanything,aslongasyouaredoingthebusiness and winning on the pitch.
Ibrahimovic has been more than doing that. His scoring rate, in fact, is reallywhat’sludicrous.It’ssogood,especially the way he has kept up a ratio of over 0.68 from his time in France. The drop-off from 0.86 from his time in France is obviously forgivable, given that United are not so far ahead of the restof theirleagueinthewayPSGare.