How Zlatan Ibrahimovic's impending return will benefit Manchester United
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is poised to take over the number 10 jersey at Old Trafford.
The Swedish superstar was released by Manchester United at the end of his contract this summer due to the cruciate knee ligament injury he suffered against Anderlecht in April earlier this year. But it is no secret that Mourinho has all along been open to signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic again for United. And why not? The 35-year-old striker was United's top scorer last season with 28 goals in 46 games.
The widespread rumours doing the rounds currently claim that Zlatan has been offered a new contract by Manchester United and is all set to sign it. This rumour was further fuelled by the purported sale of Ibrahimovic's jersey on the website of Adidas with number 10 on it. This brings us to the questions, does signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic make sense for United?
Zlatan will add to the tough mentality at United
Normally an injury like the one suffered by Ibrahimovic can take anywhere between 9 to 12 months for a player to get back to playing football. Many had predicted that we had seen the last of Zlatan on a football pitch and coming back from this setback would not be possible at the age of 35.
But we perhaps did not take into consideration that no other factor can decide Zlatan's fate for him except for himself. He posted a video on his Twitter handle with the tagline "Which knee?" as he unleashed powerful kicks using both his legs at the punching bag.
The Swede has put in long hours and has worked extremely hard to fight his way back to fitness that seemed almost impossible to achieve for him. His dedication, hard work and professionalism will be welcomed by Jose Mourinho.
His experience and leadership will be indispensable
Ibrahimovic turns 36 this October and may not even be available to play a football match until December. Yet he will be as valuable a player, both on the pitch and off it, to United as anybody. He will add a wealth of experience and much more to a United team which is a little short on experience.
In fact, Manchester United have only four players over the age of 30, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Michael Carrick and Sergio Romero (turned 30 in February 2017).
Zlatan's influence last season was there to be seen as he inspired the team on multiple occasions and helped keep the confidence high in the dressing room. He will serve as a role model for the rather young and inexperienced strikers of United in Lukaku, Rashford and Martial.
He has won 13 league titles and at least one in every big European league that he has played in (Netherlands, France, Italy and Spain), except the Premier League. He surely harbours within himself a fierce desire to add the PL medal to his collection.
Such desire and ambition is what Jose Mourinho expects to see in his players and Zlatan will be the perfect leader for his teammates.
Champions League experience and adds depth to the squad
Manchester United currently have three strikers in their squad, Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. While Lukaku is in his first season at United, the latter two are still young and some way off from scoring goals on a regular basis for United.
Although Lukaku has started very well and will surely fetch a good number of goals for United, they cannot be overly reliant on one man for the goals. Should there be an unforeseen injury problem to Lukaku, United will be left without a senior striker in their squad.
Further, none of the United strikers have the experience of playing Champions League football year in year out. On the other hand, Ibrahimovic has an abundance of experience playing in Europe and is, in fact, the only player to have scored in the Champions League with six different teams.
This is where Zlatan will be absolutely crucial for Jose Mourinho. His phenomenal goal scoring record has only improved with age and he scores in almost every match he plays. Ibrahimovic has scored over 240 goals in his last 7 seasons, averaging more than 35 goals a term.
There is no other striker with half as good a record who is available in the market right now. Plus, Zlatan is a free agent!
Will he fit into the current team?
There has been a slight shift in United's style of play, as is evident. The Red Devils have been playing some scintillating counter attacking football and their pace has been frightening opposition's defences. Well, the 35-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not really add to the pace and may not suit this style of football. But then, United are not always going to be playing on the counter.
Zlatan will provide a different attacking angle to United, suited to possession based football and as indicated above, the current United strikers do not have the Champions League experience. Keep that in mind, Zlatan might just end up being the first-choice striker for United in Europe, particularly in the knock-out stage.
While Ibrahimovic may be available for free, his wages will definitely not be low. However, as indicated by Adidas's website, he is likely to inherit the famous number 10 jersey worn by the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney.
The Swede will be a worthy player to don the number 10 and will most definitely generate a lot of revenue through shirt sales. This adds to the potential commercial benefit as well to the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Author's final thoughts
If I were in place of Jose Mourinho, I would definitely take Zlatan on board. Although he is likely to be available to play only in the second half of the season, he will add much vigour, confidence and leadership required in the business end of a season to push on for glory on both domestic and European fronts. His technique, versatility and physical presence will be very valuable for United, even more than the goals that he is likely to score.