Ibrahi­mović and Mour­inho fail to live up to top billing

CityPress - - Sport - PETER AUF DER HEYDE sports@city­press.co.za

Mod­esty and fail­ure are not terms that spring to mind when de­scrib­ing ei­ther Swede striker Zla­tan Ibrahi­mović or Por­tuguese coach José Mour­inho.

When the two joined Manch­ester United at the start of the cur­rent sea­son, Red Devils fans were not only look­ing for­ward to an en­ter­tain­ing few months ahead, they were also hop­ing for suc­cess.

Ten games into the sea­son, and there has been nei­ther suc­cess nor en­ter­tain­ment.

Last Satur­day’s unin­spir­ing 0-0 draw against Burn­ley at Old Traf­ford left United eight points be­hind the dom­i­nat­ing trio of Manch­ester City, Arse­nal and Liver­pool, and seven points be­hind Chelsea.

One of the rea­sons United has failed to live up to their pre­sea­son hype, is be­cause striker Ibrahi­mović has failed to find the goal-scor­ing form he has had with for­mer clubs.

He be­gan strongly enough, scor­ing a goal against Bournemouth and two against Southamp­ton in his first two matches, giv­ing United an ex­cel­lent start to the sea­son with six points from six games.

He scored an­other goal against City at their lo­cal city derby, where United suf­fered a 2-1 de­feat, but has since failed to find the back of the net.

He has again failed to score on Thurs­day in the Uefa Europa League against Fener­bahçe.

Ibrahi­mović is used to be­ing the star for­ward, with the team’s game moulded more to­wards his own, not the other way around. But with Paul Pogba and teenage sen­sa­tion Mar­cus Rash­ford, United al­ready have two top-notch strik­ers on the field.

The 2009/10 Premier League sea­son with Barcelona was Ibrahi­mović’s most dis­ap­point­ing. He was of­ten left fum­ing af­ter coach Pep Guardi­ola sub­sti­tuted him with the emerg­ing Lionel Messi in many of Barcelona’s big games. That sea­son is the only blip on his impressive club ca­reer so far.

Since emerg­ing on the Euro­pean foot­ball scene with Ajax Am­s­ter­dam in the 2001/02 sea­son, Ibrahi­mović has been ham­mer­ing in goals, help­ing his pre­vi­ous clubs to suc­ceed and cre­at­ing a name for himself.

The 2001/02 sea­son with Ajax, and the one with Ju­ven­tus four years later, are the only two sea­sons dur­ing which the Swede did not ob­tain a to­tal goal tally in the dou­ble dig­its.

Stints in the Serie A with Ju­ven­tus, In­ter Mi­lan, AC Mi­lan and fi­nally with big-spend­ing French club Paris St Ger­main high­lighted what was al­ready known: he is one of the best strik­ers in the world.

But it’s not only the 35-year-old’s goalscor­ing ex­ploits that have grabbed at­ten­tion over the years; he has made reg­u­lar head­lines with out­ra­geous state­ments.

Af­ter Swe­den had been elim­i­nated by Portugal from qual­i­fy­ing for the 2014 World Cup, he said: “One thing is for sure, a World Cup with­out me is noth­ing to watch.”

He cer­tainly does not lack self­con­fi­dence, once mak­ing the state­ment: “I can’t help but laugh at how per­fect I am.”

He had a chance to move to the Premier League as a 17-year-old, ex­plain­ing many years later: “[Arsène] Wenger asked me to have a trial with Arse­nal. I turned it down. Zla­tan doesn’t do au­di­tions.”

When he fi­nally made the leap across the chan­nel many years later, some were scep­ti­cal as to whether he was too old for the fast-paced English game. He dis­missed their con­cerns by promis­ing to de­liver spec­tac­u­larly de­spite rapidly ap­proach­ing the wrong side of 30. “I’m like a fine wine. The older I am, the bet­ter I get,” he said. United are hop­ing that the striker will be able to rekin­dle the re­la­tion­ship he had with Mour­inho dur­ing their time at In­ter Mi­lan. The Spe­cial One de­scribed Ibrahi­mović as “very spe­cial, he is one of the best strik­ers in the world”. How­ever, both have failed to bring any­thing spe­cial to a United ea­ger to go back to the glory days of Sir Alex Fer­gu­son. With­out dras­tic change of for­tune, United fans could well brace them­selves for an un-spe­cial sea­son.

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