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Mourinho ties his fate to Ibrahimovic at United

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Britain Football Soccer - Manchester United Press Conference - Manchester United Training Ground - 23/11/16 Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during the press conference Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine Livepic
Britain Football Soccer - Manchester United Press Conference - Manchester United Training Ground - 23/11/16 Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during the press conference Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine Livepic

By Neil Robinson

(Reuters) - Jose Mourinho's announcement that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will stay at Manchester United for a second season was a bold statement of faith in a striker still trying to prove himself in England.

United's manager swatted away questions about the 35-year-old's pace and suitability, effectively tying their fates together as they seek a way to turn around United's season.

"We are going to execute the option of a second season," said Mourinho. "After that he can do what he wants."

While it is not hard to see why Ibrahimovic would re-sign a one-year deal reported to be worth 260,000 pounds ($323,362.00) a week, some United fans question whether he remains the right man to spearhead their attack into his 37th year.

The goals have dried up after five in his first five games. Since then the Swede has netted three times in 12 attempts, once against Ukrainian side FC Zorya in the Europa League and twice versus Swansea City, the Premier League's bottom side.

Although some of those strikes were spectacular, Ibrahimovic has appeared a throwback in a season where Chelsea and Liverpool have literally set the pace with high-octane performances that have seen them surge ahead of sixth-placed United.

The Swede defended himself with characteristic charm on Wednesday when it was suggested at a news conference that he had not shone this season.

"I shine for 24 hours (a day), so it depends how you want me to shine," he said. "I've been in the game for 20 years and, while I'm getting older, I feel I'm getting better as I get older.

"I am shining in one way or another, but if you want me to shine even more then I will try and do it for you," he joked.

The problem is Mourinho has already identified a lack of pace as a problem for his attack, explaining he overlooked Wayne Rooney at home to Arsenal on Saturday because he was too slow.

Wednesday's contract announcement was all the more surprising because Ibrahimovic had suggested earlier this week that he might "outnapoleon Napoleon" by decamping to the MLS.

"Perhaps I should do what Napoleon didn’t and cross the Atlantic and conquer the States as well," he told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.

But first he must conquer Manchester.

With a trophy bagged every season since 2001, including 13 league titles, and a statue to be erected in his honour in Stockholm, Mourinho clearly believes Ibra will deliver.

($1 = 0.8041 pounds)

(Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Ken Ferris)


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