What has Zlatan Ibrahimovic improved Manchester United since his arrival?
The first, and probably most obvious, is that he is a tall target man with talent. This is not to say that United have not had this type of player in the past, it’s just something they have been short of for a while.
Robin van Persie, although 6’0″ in height was never a prolific goalscorer with his head and the same can be said for United’s other “tall” strikers in the recent past.
Teddy Sheringham at 6’1″ and Ruud van Nistelrooy at 6’2″ also scored a few with their head but nothing like the amount expected of a big striker. Most of their goals were taken with a mixture of skill, being in the right place at the right time and clever footwork.
Not since Joe Jordan have United had a striker who would score the majority of his goals with his head. Now that isn’t to say that Zlatan will score more headers than any other type of goal, just that he is proficient enough to do so.
To date, his five goals have consisted of a penalty, a right footed volley and a three towering headers. He is a mixture of the three previously mentioned strikers but with more individual talent than any of them. The pity is that his stay at Old Trafford is unlikely to be a long one.
He also has a presence about him. Other players respond to him as a leader and, the fact that he enjoys this adulation, means that it can only bode well for United. The dressing room must be a fun place in which to be when he’s around, particularly when the team is winning!
The only disadvantages are, as mentioned, his age, meaning that United fans will not be watching him for too long and the fact that he can, occasionally, drift out of games and become ineffective. In fairness, there has been little evidence of the latter in his short time with United.
His arrival caused the biggest buzz heard around Old Trafford in years and, the fact that it was followed by the arrival of Paul Pogba, gave United fans the impression that the team was back in the big time at last.
After the wilderness years of “Moyes the Miserable” and “van Gaal the Vague” this was a breath of fresh air. United had not only made an appointment with which the fans agreed when they gave José Mourinho the manager’s job, they also made a signing, (or four), with which the fans agreed when they brought in Ibrahimovi?. He was certainly the icing on the cake!
Now it remains to be seen how long his influence on the rest of the team can last. At present they appear to want to prove how good they are, not only to Mourinho, but to Zlatan as well.
All of these things add up to Ibrahimovic being a good signing for United. There were a few doubts in the beginning. Was he fit enough for the Premier League? Could he adapt to a league in which he had never played before, particularly at the age of 34? How would he fit into the United team? All of these questions have been answered positively and it now looks as though the two were made for each other.
What was also important was the fact that he had worked with Mourinho before. This was a deciding factor in his choosing United over the few other teams who could afford him. He could have chosen to take the easy money in China or America where he would have been able to play his football in virtual semi-retirement, but he chose to take on the challenge of the Premier League and the impression is that it would be something he would always regret not doing had he gone elsewhere.
So is he worth the money he is being paid? Of course not, nobody is! But in today’s inflated football workplace he is certainly not being paid less than the going rate for a player of his ability and experience.
It is just a pity that, in this world of upside-down priorities, a grown man can put on some fancy dress clothes, kick a ball around for a while and get paid millions while people who really are heroes and save lives every single day struggle to get by on a pittance, but that’s another subject.
The original article can be found on the excellent Why Say Anything?