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Manchester United

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Manchester United: A Match Made in Heaven

The Boot Room

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Reading reports of the EFL Cup Final on Sunday, one may have wondered if the most successful club in English football had become something of a one-man-team. Zlatan Ibrahimovic stole the show in the season’s first domestic cup final and he now seems invaluable to Manchester United. Especially when you consider that his actual value during last summer’s transfer window was exactly nothing. Since his move to Manchester he has converted even the most ardent of footballing Euro-sceptics and proved that, to him, English football represents little more than another series of trophies for him to set about furiously collecting.

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Slightly underwhelming in his meetings with English clubs in the past, now plying his trade against them weekly it is hard to imagine why some thought he would struggle to adapt. His goals alone have been invaluable, and without them United’s top four prospects would surely have ended months ago. Another goal for the Swede would see him reach 27 for the season, three times the tally of United’s second highest goal scorer, Juan Mata.

However with Ibrahimovic, the goals do not tell the whole story. United’s burgeoning arsenal of attacking firepower is heavy on talent but slightly light on experience, and this is where the 36-year-old’s value may really lie in the long-term. His aura was intoxicating at the final whistle on Sunday as he strolled around Wembley as Manchester United’s number nine. A difficult shirt to fill, but one currently bursting at the seams; brimming with talent and attitude. Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial could scarcely have picked a better craftsman to learn their trade under. Watching and playing alongside their talisman on Sunday, they will have learnt how to shine in the spotlight and not be blinded by the glare.

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When Ibrahimovic moved to Paris at the tender age of 30 some thought his career was winding down, but after five goal-heavy and trophy-laden years in France it was clear that he was still very much alive and kicking and his European tour of a career moved to Manchester. Few imagined he could reach the same heights that he hit in Paris, but then few predicted what a perfect home Old Trafford would prove to be.

Obviously, at the age of 35 he has lost some pace, but he is clever enough to value the legs of Rashford, Lingard and Martial, just as much as they value his speed of thought. Their pace not only creates room for Ibrahimovic, but also for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba and Juan Mata. These are exceptional players and their ability to combine with Ibrahimovic has been part of the reason for the Swede’s success. Pogba and Ibrahimovic’s chemistry saw them elevate long ball football into a type of avant-garde performance art in their game against Blackburn, such was the ease and simplicity of the veteran striker’s eventual winner.

It should come as no surprise then, that Old Trafford has proved a happy home for United’s new number nine. He offers the excitement and bravado that the Stretford End craved as their club seemed to slide dangerously close to mediocrity. They’d had enough of being normal, and suddenly, one of the world’s most extraordinary athletes fell into their lap. It is hard to think of many other top clubs who were so ready to crown a new king, and the comparisons to Eric Cantona were clear. Unless he plays into his forties, Ibrahimovic will not have been at Old Trafford for as long as the Frenchman, but with some careful management his influence may be felt for just as long.

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Before he took over as manager, some Manchester United fans questioned whether Jose Mourinho could bring through youth. If he sticks around in Manchester then his current talisman may be the answer. Mourinho must ensure that Rashford and co.’s stars are allowed to ascend as Ibrahimovic’s inevitably falls to usher in a new era of success. Before the man known simply as ‘Zlatan’ grows old, the next generation must be allowed to grow in stature. Ibrahimovic may only be a short term solution for Manchester United’s lack of goals, but long term, his influence might prove invaluable.

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Chelsea

Willian could hold key to Tottenham landing Anthony Martial

If Manchester United land the Brazilian it would undoubtedly improve Tottenham’s chances.

Jamie Watts

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Manchester United are reportedly preparing a £60 million bid to bring Chelsea winger Willian to Old Trafford this summer, according to reports from the Daily Mail, with manager Jose Mourinho having been linked with an approach for his former star for some time.

Chelsea were unwilling to sell at that time, but it is possible that Willian could be interested in a new challenge after apparently growing frustrated with life at Stamford Bridge, according to recent reports from Sky Sports. He managed a combined 25 goals and assists in 55 appearances in 2017/18, but only 20 of his 37 Premier League outings actually came as a starter.

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Tottenham meanwhile, have become frustrated at United’s assertion that Anthony Martial will not be sold this summer (Sky Sports), after Mauricio Pochettino made the Frenchman his priority target last month (the Sun), as he looks to bolster the supply line to Harry Kane next term.

However, Martial’s revelation that he wants to leave the club could be vital for Spurs, as Mourinho has previously stated that he would never stop a player from moving if they really want the move and the money is right. And he’s backed up his words, selling two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata to his current club in 2014.

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The Red Devils are currently stacked in terms of depth for the left wing, with Marcus Rashford struggling to start games over January signing Alexis Sanchez, but wide-right is somewhat scarce and Willian would undoubtedly improve United’s balance for the better.

Although the manager would prefer the Frenchman went abroad, if he asked for the move to north London, Willian’s transfer to United would undoubtedly improve Pochettino’s chances of securing his key man. United will also be buoyed by their recent business with the west Londoners, having surprisingly secured the signing of Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge last summer.

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Manchester United

Chicharito shows he’s capable of replacing Marko Arnautovic at West Ham in brilliant Mexico performance

The striker was unrecognisable from last season at West Ham.

Jamie Watts

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West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic is still heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, although the club have attempted to deter interest by slapping a whopping £60 million price tag on the Austrian, according to the Daily Star.

Although the price is considerable, it’s conceivable United could match the fee, or something close and Manuel Pellegrini may have to begin lining up replacements, in case a switch to Old Trafford materialises. But the Chilean coach may very well have his man already on yesterday’s evidence, ironically, in the form of former United fan favourite, Chicharito.

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Chicharito made a name for himself throughout his career for his impressive ability to improvise a finish in the penalty area, and his movement, which has led to countless poacher goals. However, his performance for Mexico yesterday could indicate a change of responsibilities for the striker in the future. And West Ham will be thrilled.

Against Germany, he did everything but put the ball away. Non-initiated viewers may have been shocked to find out that the striker went into the match one goal off a career tally of 50 for his country, as he plied for the 90 minutes as a forward linch-pin, connecting play in the final third for almost every counter-attack. His general touch, awareness of approaching defenders, vision to see runners and execution of passes were all sensational on the night.

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It could be argued that his national pride conjured this new style. but now there can be no doubting he has the ability to play the Arnautovic-type role, and in emphatic fashion. And if Pellegrini can tap-into this style, he could already have the Austrian’s ready made replacement at the London Stadium.

Last term the 30-year-old struggled to break into the team on a regular basis under David Moyes, making 33 appearances in all competitions, bagging eight goals and an assist, but his contribution next year could be far more valuable.

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Manchester United

Fans react on Twitter to Sergej Milinkovic-Savic performance

Manchester United have been heavily linked with a move for the Lazio midfielder.

Mathew Nash

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Serbia took on Costa Rica in the World Cup today and put in a solid performance, eventually coming away with a 1-0 win. Aleksandar Kolarov scored the winner with a fantastic long-range free-kick.

But for Manchester United fans the man to watch was Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

Tipped by The Boot Room as one of 10 players to watch at the World Cup he has been linked with a move to United recently.

Valued at £87.5 million, did he live up to the hype?

The reaction to his performance was, in parts, mixed.

What was clear is that Milinkovic-Savic is a fantastic talent. Big and strong he rivals United midfielder and Serbia teammate Nemanja Matic for physicality.

But he is also extremely agile and nimble. Quick-footed, he often left Costa Rica players chasing shadows with some brilliant skill.

The highlight of his performance was perhaps an overhead kick attempt in the first-half. He leaped out of nowhere, defying his frame, before unleashing an acrobatic effort at Keylor Navas’ goal.

It was a good performance and one perhaps more indicative of potential than the finished article. Manchester United are undoubtedly in the running for the player but are not alone, with Juventus, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain all chasing the player.

His display v Costa Rica certainly showed why there is so much hype over a player who can do so many different jobs in midfield. Improvements still need to be made, but the raw talent is clearly there.

Here is how fans reacted on Twitter…

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