Analysing Zlatan Ibrahimovic's man-of-the-match display for Manchester United against Southampton
The biggest stars of the game are under huge pressure to perform on a weekly basis, with critics looking for the smallest fault to comment on. Zlatan Ibrahimovic rubs people up the wrong way with his arrogance and there will have been many hoping that he would fail in the Premier League. However, the early indications are that he will be a huge success in England.
The increased physicality of the league can take some time to get used to, but Ibrahimovic looks like he has been playing at Manchester United for his entire career. His man-of-the-match display against Southampton was superb and he looks set to continue his incredible scoring record in England.
For the Southampton manager Claude Puel, it was a familiar sight to see Ibrahimovic scoring, with the Swede doing just that so frequently against his Nice side in France. On Friday, the world-renowned forward scored twice and was a constant threat, as would be expected from a man with his talent. His first goal was superb, as he climbed over Jose Fonte to head past Fraser Forster. It was a difficult chance and he made it look easy.
Jose Fonte has been one of the best defenders in the league over the last few seasons and he was a major part of Portugal’s Euro 2016 success. However, Ibrahimovic overpowered him with ease to head home. The former PSG man is one of the best forwards in the air and he has scored twice already with his head since moving to England. This provides Manchester United with the aerial presence in the final third that they have lacked in previous seasons.
The side played sumptuous football at times on Friday and have the ability to play any side off the park. However, having a player as effective in the air as Ibrahimovic gives them the chance to be more direct at times, which is required in the Premier League.
He won 55% of his aerial duels, which is a figure I expect to increase as the season progresses. Defenders will know they are in a physical battle with Ibrahimovic. He may now be in the twilight of his career, but he still has the ability to be one of the best players the Premier League has ever seen.
During the match against Southampton, Ibrahimovic had three shots, highlighting the threat he possesses in the final third. Across his first two matches, he has converted 60% of his efforts on goal. Although this conversion rate is not likely to be sustainable, it demonstrates how he has adjusted to the league quickly. Manchester United know that if they provide him with chances, Ibrahimovic will score goals. They haven’t had a world class striker for the last few seasons and they now possess one capable of scoring at an incredible rate in the Premier League.
It was interesting that Ibrahimovic got to take the penalty on Friday, ahead of club captain Wayne Rooney. He has only been at the club for a matter of months, but Ibrahimovic has already established himself as a huge presence in the dressing room.
Rooney is having to change his own role to accommodate Ibrahimovic and that will be new to him, considering he has been the main man at the club over the last decade. This could be beneficial for the club as the two look to be increasing their understanding on a weekly basis. Rooney’s cross for the opening goal was almost as good as Ibrahimovic’s header.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was always likely to take the Premier League by storm. He has been superhuman for his entire career and that wasn’t going to change this late into his footballing life. The Swede doesn’t have a game that is going to regress with age and that is evident based on his first two league games for Manchester United. He is a born winner and relishing the opportunity to dominate a new league, confirming his status as one of the best players to ever play the game.
The league record for the most goals in a season is 31, held by three players. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Ibrahimovic manages to break that this season.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Craig Ballantyne
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