Zlatan Ibrahimovic, ever the social media specialist, took to his various accounts yesterday to confirm what everyone has been suspecting for probably the last month: Manchester United is his next destination. He’s set for a potentially fantastic reunion with his former Inter Milan manager; Jose Mourinho. Most Manchester United fans are understandably happy with his imminent arrival at Old Trafford as he enjoyed a prolific season at Paris Saint Germain and appears to be in fine form for a 34-year-old striker. On the other hand, though, doubters cite his age and the difference in quality between the Premier League and Ligue 1 as potential stumbling blocks in his journey to another league title, this time in England.
Ibrahimovic has drawn unflattering comparisons to Radamel Falcao, another striker that was tipped to achieve great things in the Premier League but whose effectiveness dwindled after failed loan spells at both Manchester United and Chelsea. Certain fans feel Ibrahimovic is destined for a similar fate; a large reputation that won’t stand the test of the Premier League due to the age he’s arriving at. While his age may count against him, he should adapt to the Premier League rather well for a number of reasons. The first of which is that unlike Radamel Falcao, Ibrahimovic hasn’t had a major injury recently, and has managed to get through 50 games with his club this past season – an impressive total for any player. The second benefit for Ibrahimovic is that he’s physically suited to English football, at 6 foot 5 he’s always been known for being a handful from set pieces; an area of United’s game that has been sorely lacking in the last three seasons. His size and strength should allow him to slot rather seamlessly into a league that’s known for an emphasized physicality.
Despite his physique making him suitable for the rigors of the Premier League, the team he’s walking into is what may detract from his ability to match his success at PSG. Last season PSG won the Ligue 1 title with 96 points and 102 goals scored, an impressive tally. The team that came second, Lyon, notched only 65 points. A 31 point gap between first and second indicates just how far above the average PSG are in that league. Compare that to the fact that United weren’t even in the Top 4 last season, and the gaps between the top 6 clubs in England were negligible in comparison and it becomes difficult to argue that Ibra has a more challenging playing environment to look forward to. PSG possesses a wealth of attacking talent that managed to create an abundance of chances for Zlatan to bury; he won’t necessarily have that same gift at United. The Red Devils struggled to create chances last season and scored a paltry 49 goals in the league. They’ve already tried to remedy this problem by chasing creator-in-chief Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund, but it remains to be seen whether a newly assembled squad under a conservative manager like Jose Mourinho will hit the ground running in terms of attack.
Although Ibrahimovic’s age and United’s potential setups can only be speculated on,
the Swede’s personality will provide a definite dose of confidence at Old Trafford. United have visibly waned in power since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, and they’re in desperate need of a reminder of what their fans expect to see week in and week out. Although he may not necessarily end the 2016/2017 season as the league’s top scorer the fight and belief Ibrahimovic will bring to the squad is precisely what United need to rediscover some good form and turn Old Trafford into a fortress again. It doesn’t hurt that Zlatan will be joined once more by a manager who also knows a thing or two about confidence and setting a team up for success. The introduction of one of football’s most passionate strikers and the return of one of its most controversial and successful managers should offer plenty for discussion during the coming months.
Will Zlatan be a success in the Premier League, or will it be a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise exceptional career?