Zlat’s all for Wayne

> As Rooney and Ibrahi­movic en­ter their twi­light years, only one has flour­ished. They share much in com­mon but ap­pear to be mov­ing in op­po­site di­rec­tions at Old Traf­ford <

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - BY TIM RICH

ZLA­TAN IBRAHI­MOVIC CEL­E­BRATED his 35th birth­day on Mon­day while later this month Wayne Rooney turns 31. They are linked by ex­pe­ri­ence and abil­ity but only one seems to have a fu­ture at Manch­ester United.

Both are street foot­ballers from un­com­pro­mis­ing neigh­bour­hoods. Rosen­gard in Malmo and Crox­teth in Liver­pool were big, post-war hous­ing de­vel­op­ments where only the tough and the streetwise sur­vived.

Both made their big moves in the same year, 2004, Rooney to Manch­ester United, Ibrahi­movic to Ju­ven­tus. Nei­ther has trans­lated their ex­traor­di­nary abil­ity to in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments.

How­ever, de­spite the brash­ness of his opin­ions, his love of fast cars, Ibrahi­movic has al­ways taken his fit­ness ex­tremely se­ri­ously. The son of a brick­layer and some­time singer who suf­fered prob­lems

with al­co­hol, Ibrahi­movic is not a drinker.

“He is un­be­liev­able,” said team­mate An­der Her­rera. “He hasn’t missed one train­ing ses­sion. He trains ev­ery day and tries to get ev­ery­one to the high­est level. He is very, very ag­gres­sive and de­mand­ing but in a good way be­cause he wants to win ev­ery train­ing ses­sion.

“If you watched a game and didn’t know Zla­tan’s age, you would think he was only 28 or 29. I am not young and not old but he is an ex­am­ple for me as well. If you be­have like a pro­fes­sional, you can be at a top club when you are 35.” Since be­com­ing a

client of the Ital­ian phys­io­ther­a­pist, Dario Fort, Ibrahi­movic has suf­fered only one sig­nif­i­cant in­jury in six years, miss­ing a month and a half of the 2014-15 sea­son. Fort, who first be­gan treat­ing him when Ibrahi­movic played for Mi­lan, has fol­lowed him to Paris and now Manch­ester. In­ter­est­ingly, when his re­la­tion­ship with Pep Guardi­ola at Barcelona was break­ing down, Ibrahi­movic was of­fered a move to Manch­ester City. He turned it down be­cause he thought he was too old for the kind of long-term project City were try­ing to sell him in 2010. He was 29 and felt time was not on his side. In this Zla­tan was wrong. Time is now Rooney’s great en­emy. Manch­ester United may have opened the scor­ing a few min­utes af­ter he came on as a sub­sti­tute but the 24 min­utes Rooney played against Stoke on Sun­day were among the most dispir­it­ing of his time at Old Traf­ford. He was in­volved in the build-up to the United goal but only be­cause he lin­gered too long on the ball. It was not down to him that Ge­off Cameron’s clear­ance landed at the feet of An­thony Mar­tial. There were some ropey touches, a few di­rec­tion­less crosses and then off to the strains of ‘Glory, Glory Man United.’ Rooney de­serves his place in the Manch­ester United pan­theon. He may not be counted in the same terms as Ryan Giggs or Paul Sc­holes but his con­tri­bu­tion has been at least as great as David Beck­ham’s. Giggs played for Manch­ester United in his for­ties. Sc­holes and Beck­ham ex­tended their top-flight ca­reers un­til they were 38. It would be hard to imag­ine Rooney run­ning at de­fend­ers be­neath the Stret­ford End dur­ing the 2023-24 sea­son. It is hard enough to imag­ine him do­ing it next year. Rooney is not known as a big drinker but his at­ti­tude to fit­ness would not be very dif­fer­ent from Fred True­man’s. When asked if he fan­cied do­ing a few laps of Head­in­g­ley be­fore a game, the self­styled ‘great­est fast bowler who ever drew breath’ would snort that he ‘got fit by bowl­ing, sun­shine’. Rooney is the same. His fit­ness de­rives from play­ing, whether at Old Traf­ford or on the train­ing pitches at Car­ring­ton. He is a great ball player rather than an ath­lete. It would be in­ter­est­ing to know if Jose Mour­inho talked to Sir Alex Fer­gu­son about Rooney be­cause Fer­gu­son’s fi­nal opin­ion on the for­ward, pub­lished in his sec­ond vol­ume of au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, was damn­ing. Rooney, said Fer­gu­son, would not last. “He had great qual­i­ties but they could be swal­lowed by a lack of fit­ness,” he wrote. “Look at the way Cris­tiano Ron­aldo or Ryan Giggs looked af­ter them­selves. If he missed a cou­ple of weeks for United, it could take him four or five games to get his sharp­ness back.” His peak, Fer­gu­son thought, was around 26, in the sea­sons when Manch­ester United reached three Euro­pean Cup fi­nals in four years. There would be mo­ments, like the over­head kick against Manch­ester City and the gor­geous pass to Robin van Per­sie against As­ton Villa that won Fer­gu­son his fi­nal Pre­mier League ti­tle, but the path would gen­er­ally lead down­hill. “He strug­gled more and more to do it for 90 min­utes,” said Fer­gu­son. He was strug­gling to do it for 24 on Sun­day and it was per­haps not help­ful for the Chi­nese FA’s mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, Li Ji­uquan, to re­mark how pop­u­lar Rooney re­mains in China. Last week, Ibrahi­movic’s agent, Mino Raiola, re­vealed how his player had turned down a € 100m (RM462.62m) deal with the Chi­nese Su­per League in the sum­mer be­cause he felt his ca­reer had a dis­tance to run. Whether you can say the same of Rooney is open to ques­tion. – The Independent

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