Zlatan Ibrahimovic injury is latest twist in Man Utd stintby William Odinga 21/04/2017 12:13:00 0 comments 1 Views
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic has become a talismanic presence for Manchester United
- His season hasn't all been plain sailing with occasional bumps in the road
- Towering Swedish striker suffered nasty looking knee injury on Thursday night
- He has scored 28 goals for Jose Mourinho's side, but have we seen last of him?
By Adam Crafton for MailOnline
Published: 13:33 BST, 21 April 2017 | Updated: 17:13 BST, 21 April 2017
In the autumn of 1997, in the months that followed Eric Cantona's departure from Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson sent a letter to his former striker.
Ferguson, who admits in the letter that he required a top-level striker to win his first Champions League, concluded: 'I keep hoping that I will discover a young Cantona! It is a dream!'
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was 16 back then, emerging as one of the continent's most promising young talents at Malmo in Sweden.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has enjoyed a remarkable first season with Manchester United
The latest twist in his season was a nasty looking knee injury suffered on Thursday night
IBRAHIMOVIC'S 2016-17 SEASON IN STATS
Starts - 41
Goals - 28
Assists - 9
Chances created - 88
Right foot - 19
Left foot - 2
Head - 7
Inside box - 22
Outside box - 6
How Sir Alex Ferguson would have cherished working with him. Ferguson once said of Cantona: 'Some players, with respected and established reputations, are cowed and broken by the size and expectations.
Not Eric. He swaggered in, stuck his chest out, raised his head and surveyed everything as if to ask: 'I'm Cantona, how big are you? Are you big enough for me?'
You can imagine Zlatan doing similar. We have only had one year of the mighty Swede and it is clear some of his powers are waning but what a contribution he has made.
If the injury against Anderlecht is to be the end of his campaign, as some observers fear it might, he leaves English audiences pining for more.
Ibrahimovic is not quick over the ground but he's lightning fast upstairs and his balance, strength and protection of the ball makes life so difficult for defenders.
He struts with arrogance, declares himself a 'lion' and taunts Manchester City's Claudio Bravo with pre-match Instagram videos.
Ibrahimovic starred for United in their victory against Southampton in the EFL Cup
It feels like a football career in the life of a film star. There have been moments to celebrate, such as his ruthless contribution to score two goals in both the Community Shield and Capital One Cup final to hand Jose Mourinho two trophies in his first year at Old Trafford.
There have been moments of volatile chaos, such as the pre-meditated revenge mission on Tyrone Mings, that earned him a three-match ban.
At his best, he has made good players better and made Manchester United tick. He can appear a preening peacock of a football, appear to not have a care in the world, and then he conjures something utterly, beautifully, majestically brilliant. In an increasingly sanitised field, he projects originality.
He recently told BT Sport: 'I came here as a 35-year-old and everyone thought I was in a wheelchair. And what happened? The lion is still alive.'
The dominant Swede has fired 28 goals in his debut season, becoming a crucial player
It hasn't always been positive for Ibrahimovic this season and he has also missed key chances
Not just alive but positively roaring. He has scored 28 goals and provided nine more in 46 appearances. He's not quick but he's lightning fast upstairs and his balance, strength and protection of the ball.
He's created 88 chances for his team-mates and his figures would read even more impressively had it not been for some profligacy.
He scores with his right foot (19), his left foot (2) and his head (7). He scores from inside the box (22) and outside the box (6). He takes the penalties and he takes the free-kicks. He is a great goalscorer and a scorer of great goals.
He sets the standards for those around them. He has been searingly honest. 'Whatever comes after the first one is a failure,' he said of United's fifth placed position. 'If you are cat, you will run away,' he said of Jose Mourinho's direct approach to management. 'If you are a lion, you will stay among the other lions.'
The striker received a ban for this challenge against Tyrone Mings of Bournemouth
Ibrahimovic has become an inspiring presence for United who look to him for leadership
It has not been perfect, of course. There are times that his own squandering of chances has let United down. It can sound churlish to say, but having taken 172 shots this season, he should have more than just the 28 goals. Glaring opportunities were passed up against Manchester City, Burnley, Stoke, Hull and on Thursday against Anderlecht.
Yet where would United be without him? He has scored over a third of the club's 48 Premier League goals.
The injury places his final month of the season in peril, with United still to play seven Premier League games and potentially three more Europa League matches. His future remains uncertain, with United still to agree an extension to his contract and LA Galaxy making overtures. At 35, the temptation for a life in California must appeal.
But let us hope that lion remains among the lions next season and Zlatan remains the king of the jungle in the Premier League.
It remains to be see whether the 35-year-old will be playing for United next season