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Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Manchester United's honeymoon is over and its time to look beyond the Swede

989   //    31 Oct 2016, 19:31 IST

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Despite the arrival of numerous superstars before the start of the season, Manchester United have endured a tough start to the new season. The club has lacked ideas going forward on some occasions and has been susceptible in defence and as a result currently languish in the 8th spot and 7 points behind Chelsea, who sit in the last Champions League spot.

One man has grabbed all the wrong headlines for the club, and that is the French midfielder Paul Pogba. The £89 million man was expected to have an immediate positive impact at the Old Trafford. While he has impressed in bits and pieces, he has a lot more to do to justify the price tag he carries truly. However, there is another player who seems to be in the worst phase of his career and is now beginning to be singled out for his unimpressive performances, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Zlatan fading away after an impressive start to life in Manchester

The Swedish superstar started life in Manchester in the best possible way, helping his side win the season-opening fixture of the Community Shield before going on to score four goals in his opening four games for the Red Devils. However, the tables have turned on the prolific striker as he has now gone 6 League games without finding the back of the net. In fact, his last goal in any competition last came towards the end of September when he found the elusive goal against Ukranian side FC Zorya Luhansk.

What has been even more frustrating for the Manchester United faithful is that he has been consistently missing easy chances that come his way. While he did find the back of the net against cross-town rivals Manchester City in the Manchester derby, he was at fault for letting go of an easy chance to equalise in the game. He replicated the feat against arch-rivals Liverpool in the North West Derby when he squandered a glorious opportunity and was also at fault in his side’s recent goalless draw at home against Burnley.

He has attempted 23 shots in the last six games without any fruits and has now gone without scoring in 6 consecutive league games for the first time since 2007 when he was at Inter Milan.

Zlatan is not untouchable at the Old Trafford

While it may seem like Zlatan, much like the Frenchman Paul Pogba is untouchable at the club, it is not the case. At 35 years of age, he is already in the latter stages of his career, and the decision to bring him to the club was always looked like a stop gap solution by Jose Mourinho, rather than a long-term solution. To lend credentials for fans calling out for Mourinho to drop him, not only has the player squandered some great opportunities, but he has also gone missing in games and has failed to bring out his creative instincts to help his side.

He has looked out of sync at times and has been handled in a rather straightforward manner by the opposition defenders in the recent times. Understandably, with age catching up with him, it is only obvious that the Swedish might not be as quick to skip past the opposition as his colleagues. However, he has failed to link-up well with his teammates, as a result of which, Manchester United have slipped down the order in the League table.

Perhaps, it is Mourinho’s tactics to play him in an isolated role that might be causing the game, but it has not reaped the right rewards for the club. And, we believe, it’s time for the Portuguese special one to address the striking troubles being experienced by the club before the situation gets out of hand.

Jose Mourinho has a headache on his hands

The problem of individual players has a cumulative impact on the fortunes of the club, and none will be more concerned about the same than their Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese, who has in the past has shown a penchant for making tough, yet correct decisions need to make yet another of such a decision with regards to his strikers and in particular, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

While he does Ibrahimovic very highly, every footballer goes through ups and downs and Zlatan, despite being a special being, has not escaped the cycle and is currently going through the worst phase of his career, albeit only in the later stages of his career. With the likes of Rashford, Martial and even an unimpressive Wayne Rooney available to him, we could see Mourinho opting to bench Ibrahimovic in the future and use him as an impact player, rather than being a starter who labours through the game.

Another reason that might force Mourinho to rest him in the few games to come is simply to get him out of the firing line. Often some time away from the limelight helps players resurrect their flailing season and, we believe, Zlatan, who still has a huge role to play at the club, even after his unimpressive performances, could do with some time away from the first team.

For now, all we can say is that the Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s honeymoon period with Manchester United is over. He has been outmuscled by defenders, looks slow getting on the ball and most importantly has been wastefulness with his finishing and now faces an uphill task if he is to replicate the mouthwatering performances he has dished out in the recent past.

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