Zlatan dazzles in debut
JOSE Mourinho believes Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s influence on his Manchester United teammates will be just as crucial as his inspirational contribution on the pitch. Ibrahimovic marked his Premier League debut for United in memorable fashion as the flamboyant Swedish striker hammered a 25yard strike past Bournemouth goalkeeper Artur Boruc to cap his new team’s 3-1 win at Dean Court over the weekend.
The 34-year-old has now scored on his maiden appearances in the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Champions League.
While maintaining that impressive statistic served as a notable introduction to English football, Ibrahimovic has his sights set on winning the Premier League rather than bolstering his lengthy list of individual accolades.
With that in mind, Mourinho, who brought Ibrahimovic to United on a free transfer after he left Paris Saint Germain, has been encouraged by the way the former Barcelona and Inter Milan forward has quickly emerged as a talismanic figure in the Old Trafford dressing room.
Many of United’s young players have been spending time with Ibrahimovic to pick his brains and Mourinho even invoked the name of United legend Eric Cantona when asked about the Swede’s ability to lift the level of his teammates with his swaggering style and vast experience.
“The first thing I can tell you is at his table for breakfast and for meals he is surrounded by the kids, the younger ones like [Marcus] Rashford and [Luke] Shaw,” Mourinho said.
“He knows what he can be for them as well as what he does with his performances.
“You have to forget he is 34 because the body and mentality is not that age. He is at the top of his game.”
It was a perfect start for both Mourinho and Ibrahimovic as they begin a new era with United.
But the magnitude of the United job meant even an experienced campaigner like Mourinho felt a few nerves before his first league match.
“To be honest before the match I was a little bit [nervous]. Even for someone with so many years in football it is still normal,” he said.
“I never forget when I came to Old Trafford with Real Madrid I asked Alex Ferguson, ‘Are you still nervous?’ and he said, ‘Yes, it never changes.’”
Emphatic A tepid first-half display wouldn’t have eased Mourinho’s anxiety but the game changed completely once a woeful backpass by Bournemouth defender Simon Francis was punished by Juan Mata in the 40th minute.
Wayne Rooney added United’s second with a header in the second half and Ibrahimovic struck soon after before Adam Smith got one back for out-classed Bournemouth.
Having won the Community Shield against champions Leicester last weekend and started the league campaign in emphatic fashion, Mourinho was asked if United could repeat the kind of blistering opening to a season that carried his Chelsea teams to three English titles.
“I started bad with Inter Milan and Porto, with draws at home, and yet we won everything, so you never know,” he said.
“The Community Shield is only a friendly but the feeling of a victory like that brings happiness and confidence.
“Now another match, away, and another victory. It’s a really good week of work for us.
“So on Friday in the first home match, which can bring some pressure. we will go with a good feeling.
Everybody knows we are going to fight for the title. Whether we win or not win is a different story.
“If one day it’s not possible, we will think about the top four. That would be a step forward from last season.”
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe admitted sloppy defending had scuppered his side’s chances of spoiling Mourinho’s party.
“We dominated the early stages but you can’t gift Manchester United goals,” he said.
“You can’t lambast individuals for that. The second half was more difficult and they got their goals in quick succession.” –
Zlatan Ibrahimovic chases down a pass during his Premier League debut for Man U over the weekend.