In some Zlatan Ibrahimovic transfer news it has finally been announced (in typically low-key style, check out video tweet below) that the Swede has rejoined Manchester United for a second season. Zlatan has signed a one year contract although he isn’t expected to be back in first team contention until the new year after he suffered cruciate knee-ligament damage in the Europa League match against Anderlecht. There had been much speculation about his future over the summer but he’s staying at Old Trafford.
We will have a look at what this means for Man Utd and what role Ibrahimovic will play…
Nationality: 116 caps 62 goals – retired
Transfer Fee: Free
Contract Length: 1 year
2016/17 League Stats: 27 starts (1 sub appearance) 17 goals (5 assists)
Ibrahimovic has been linked with several big money moves since the expiry of his Man Utd contract last season. Both America and China had been mentioned, along with a less lucrative return to Italy. However he has come to an agreement to prolong his Utd career for another season.
It’s believed that Ibrahimovic has taken a substantial pay decrease. That indicates he has accepted a reduced role this season which makes sense given his injury situation and the purchase of Lukaku. It also shows a level of humidity that maybe a lot of people wouldn’t have expected given the over-confident, bordering on arrogant attitude, he is sometimes perceived to show.
Ibrahimovic could have earned much more and been the centre of attention of not just the club but the entire league had he decided to move to China or America. I’m sure many people would have thought that would have been appealing to Zlatan. So choosing another season in the physically draining, highly competitive Premiership with no guarantees of first-team football shows he’s rejoining Utd for the right reasons. He deserves some credit for that.
I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised at Ibrahimovic’s ambition and need to continue testing himself at the highest level. He has displayed this throughout his career by taking up numerous challenges in different leagues, continually taking himself out of his comfort zone. Adding an English league winners medal to his vast collection of honours will be motivating him too. He’s coming to the end of his career and clearly wants to stay at the top for as long as possible.
From Man Utd’s perspective, I’ve heard Ibrahimovic’s new contract described as a ‘no-brainer’ and I tend to agree. To sign someone of his pedigree and experience with no transfer fee involved is an easy decision to make. Despite his age, he has shown he still possesses huge quality. His goal haul last season illustrates this. As does his contribution to the club winning two trophies.
Lukaku looks like he is going to be the main striker this season. His extra mobility, pace and power has given Utd’s attack a much needed, new dimension. Zlatan will have to accept playing second fiddle to the Belgian this season but he already knew this before signing. Lukaku has started the season very brightly so it’s his position to lose.
It will be new territory to Zlatan, having a reduced role but he can still provide a good option for Utd. If Lukaku’s form or fitness suffers, Ibrahimovic can slot back into the centre forward role he played last season. His intelligence would have made any transition smooth but his season of familiarity with Man Utd and the Premiership will only make it even more seamless. The lack of needing any bedding in period makes the re-signing even more smart from Utd’s perspective.
It remains to be seen if Ibrahimovic will be used as Lukaku’s direct understudy or whether Rashford and Martial will be seen more as central options and push the Swede further down the pecking order. Both youngsters have started the season very brightly too but lack the strength and hold up play of Zlatan, so I’m not convinced they are currently capable of acting as the focal point of the attack. Utd would have to alter their style to accommodate them.
The same could also be said with using Ibrahimovic though. His lack of pace meant last season it was more difficult for Utd to stretch teams and get in behind deep defences, especially at Old Trafford. As a result they struggled to break down a lot of teams. His presence also slowed Utd’s tempo significantly, much like Berbatov did a few years ago.
This allows opposition defences to get back into position and resulted in more attacks petering out than Mourinho would have been happy with. That is why Lukaku has been such a good signing as he enables quick transitions into attack. Something Utd had been missing.
Despite Zlatan’s quality, I’m not convinced he’s completely suited to the fast paced Premier League. His style is more methodical and his qualities are mainly technically driven. He’s far more suited to Serie A or La Liga. So Utd are going to need to do a better job than last season by surrounding him with more pace and direct players as and when he’s used.
It’s been reported extensively that Ibrahimovic is out injured until possibly the new year so we won’t see him until well into the second half of the season if that’s true. Utd have been good to him. This may have also influenced his decision to accept a pay decrease and continue his rehab in familiar surroundings and repay the faith and goodwill they have shown.
After a long season his return will be welcome as Utd approach the business end of the season. They will be hoping they still are still involved in several competitions and if that’s the case there will be plenty of opportunities for Zlatan to contribute as the games come thick and fast.
Ibrahimovic’s influence off the field shouldn’t be forgotten either. Domestically there is very little in European football he hasn’t won. His professionalism, ambition and confidence will be an example to every young player at the club. His value to Manchester United this season will go far beyond the playing field.
The only doubts regarding Ibrahimovic is around his injury. It remains to be seen how much football Utd get out of him this season but his quality and what he has achieved is there for all to see. If the opportunity to bring player of Ibrahimovic’s calibre into your squad arrives, especially on a free, you’d be mad not to take it.
Ibrahimovic provides Utd with some much needed depth in the striking department. Whilst he has of a history of producing on the big occasion. If he can repeat that a few times this season, Utd will be more than happy.
— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) August 25, 2017
What do you think, is Zlatan a waste of money considering he’s going to be injured for half the season or is he too good to ignore? Leave a comment below with your opinion.