News stories are rife with transfer speculation at the moment. With the new managerial arrivals at both of the big clubs in Manchester this summer, much of the biggest gossip has centred on Manchester United and Manchester City.
Although The Red Devils and Jose Mourinho seem have announced Ivory Coast international Eric Bailly as their first signing of the summer, the majority of interest has centred on the will-he-won’t-he scenario surrounding the future of Sweden legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic. At first, he was touted as Mourinho’s opening gambit at United, but now there are rumours that his transfer might be held up until July to allow the player to pick up a loyalty bonus from former club Paris St Germain
On the blue side of Manchester, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side have been linked with a huge number of players, and have already signed Ilkay Gundogan from Bundesliga runners up Borussia Dortmund. However, not to be seen to rest on his laurels, Guardiola has also reportedly identified Dortmund top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as another target. City are likely to have to shell out a hefty sum for the Gabon striker, with numbers as high as £55 million, but there is no doubt that the 26-year-old would fit in well in the hustle and bustle of the Premier League
Both are very different types of player, joining very different clubs, but which one will be the most important for his respective new side, should they both end up signing on the dotted line?
Ibrahimovic is a known quantity, and would instantly be the biggest person at United, competing with Mourinho for the back page headlines of most papers. The Swedeis coming off of the back of an extremely successful season at PSG, in which he scored 113 goals in 122 appearances and won a mighty twelve trophies in his four seasons at the club.
At 34 years of age, Ibrahimovic is no spring chicken, but this does not speak properly for his potential impact at Manchester United. Despite approaching the twilight of his career, Ibra’s pace has never been his key attribute (and regardless, he is in top physical condition by most measures), and he has proved this with his eye-catching performances in the Champions League this season.
His age does point to one of Ibrahimovic’s best attributes as well – his vast experience of top level football. Zlatan has played for most of Europe’s big clubs (Ajax, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan, AC Milan and PSG), and has consistently won titles and scored goals at all of them. This will be of great use to United’s current squad which is low on confidence and; an FA Cup win aside, seem to have lost the ability to win.
Perhaps even more importantly, this experience demonstrates Ibrahimovic’s versatility. Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga are very different leagues, and yet he has been successful in both. The same again is true for Ligue 1. This suggests that it will not take Ibrahimovic time to get used to the pace of the Premier League, something that would be crucial for Manchester United should they indeed secure his signature.
Moreover, for almost all of Ibrahimovic’s international career, he has been a big fish in a relatively small pond, and this will stand him in good stead if and when he joins the Old Trafford outfit. He has played in great teams in France, Italy and Spain, but he has also played amongst relatively limited players at international level and still excelled. His record for Sweden stands testament to this – 62 goals in 113 appearances so far.
At Manchester United, it would be a similar story (to begin with, at least), and his experience of working in such an environment will be of great help to Ibrahimovic, United’s other players, and Mourinho.
On the other side of Manchester, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will potentially be having a similar impact, but for very different reasons.
Aubameyang is athletic, direct and a lethal finisher, something that City’s attack has lacked for a while now, particularly when Sergio Aguero is missing through injury (which is; sadly, a regular thing). Therefore, Aubameyang will offer Manchester City a ‘plan b’ and will also mean that the need to rely on Aguero is diminished.
This will not only help the team, but will in particular help take some pressure off the shoulders of the superb Argentine forward, and might enable him to remain injury free for longer as a result. No longer having to be played in every single Manchester City game in order to maintain a threat will reduce the physical strain on his somewhat fragile body.
Aubameyang has also had some experience of playing against English clubs in recent seasons in Europe with Dortmund. He has previously scored against both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, suggesting that he will be well suited for playing against Premier League defences. It will be key for him to adapt quickly to the pace and pressure of the English game if he is to succeed at The Etihad.
The one question mark over Aubameyang is whether or not his sensational 2015-16 campaign for Dortmund and Gabon can be repeated for Manchester City in 2016-17. This seems harsh to say, for he has scored 91 goals since breaking through at St Etienne in 2011-12. Nevertheless, to have the impact that will be expected of him; particularly if a fee of £55 million is correct, he will need to be consistently having seasons where he scores over 20 goals, something that he has only managed once in his career so far.
A great deal will also rest on City’s ability to fix other gaping holes in their squad – notably in midfield and central defence, where they have been consistently weak for a number of years. Aubameyang may score 25 goals next season, but if the Citizens remain defensively frail then his impact will be lessened.
Overall, it seems more likely that Ibrahimovic will have more of an impact at United that Aubameyang will do at Manchester City, although that is in part because of the differing situations at both clubs. Aubameyang will give City more versatility, but Aguero is still the club’s main man and so he will likely be just one of many of the supporting case in their rather bulbous squad.
Manchester United on the other hand; at the moment at least, do not have a squad as full of quality and big personalities as their bitter rivals, and so Ibrahimovic will immediately become the centre of attention. There is also scope for a goal-scorer to really become key for United, who have not had a proper star striker since Robin van Persie left the club.
Ibrahimovic’s influence will be felt further across the dressing room than Aubameyang’s, and his experience will could provide great mentoring for promising players such as Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford as they continue to develop. The enigmatic Swede might even prompt some extra effort from Wayne Rooney, which could only be a good thing!
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