First written on February 18th, Aaron Cox explains why Manchester United are the only Premier League club for Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Let’s be frank, just the word Zlatan sets tongues wagging. The man has become such an icon that he is referred to soley by his first name. In fact referring to him by his surname is most likely to incur some sort of fine, or worse still, the wrath of the Swedish maestro.
In all honesty, it cannot be long before the serial title winner takes a leaf out of Prince’s book and demands a symbol as his moniker.
Just the sound of his name and the sight of his skills gets everyone overwhelmed with excitement but when he opens his mouth it sends reporters and supporters running around screaming like 14-year-old girls at a One Direction gig.
Well, he has opened his rather famed piehole this week and claimed that his ‘dream’ of playing in the Premier League may be alive and well, despite his ageing 34-year-old bones. He was asked after PSG’s clash with Chelsea whether England was an attractive proposition. His response? “Let’s just say I am in shape.”
That’s that then, eh? He’s moving to England. OK, maybe not, but it would be interesting to see him here and it is clearly something that appeals to the striker.
If he was to finally tick our top-flight off his European wishlist it would be an understandable career choice. Playing in Paris must have become a little boring for Ibra. There is no challenge in Ligue 1 and that leaves just Champions League games in which the ante is upped, hardly enough love for a man who has an ego larger than the mammoth gap between his current club and the chasing pack.
A move to money-rich China, the UAE or so on doesn’t fit with him either. There would be a great deal of attention around it originally of course, but then he’d be stuck in a far flung country with no one really signing his praises or reporting his soundbites. That is not the way he likes it.
So, let’s say a club has made their move, who could it be?
Well, Ibrahimovic has long been touted as a Chelsea-type of player. Be it his personality, his ego or the fact he looks good in blue. However, a switch to the Bridge doesn’t seem to fit anymore.
In Diego Costa they have the perfect Premier League centre-forward (when on form), and while they need a back-up, they do not need a player who demands to be centre of attention at all times. That simply would not suit in west London. Can you imagine him being asked to play second fiddle? Not going to happen.
Man City have the pennies to match his demands. They also have Pep Guardiola. End of that idea.
Arsenal are far too nice an operation. Surely they would not contaminate the crystal clear, bacteria free water of the Emirates with such a footballer?
Basically, all road leads to Old Trafford.
The sheer thought of one of the world’s most lauded footballers on these shores should excite everyone, especially those who follow the Red Devils.
However, the idea of a move has been scoffed at by a lot of people. The main stick which is being used to beat Zlatan with is that of his age. It then has to beg the question, when was the last time you saw him run?
His strength is as imposing as ever and his finishing ability and general skill will continue to cause any defence problems for at least another two seasons. He would be a magnificent signing for the football club and with money seemingly readily available, investing some in the Sweden captain would be the wisest choice the United board have made in years.
The north-west club are desperate for a talisman. They need a bit of verve and excitement in their team. At present they have Anthony Martial, who is a wonderful player but is just 20 years old and has spent the majority of the season carrying his teammates on his young shoulders.
Wayne Rooney, despite his impressive recent form, has lost that aura he had four or so years ago, while the only other real maverick in the squad is Memphis Depay, whose impact has been minimal and, at times, end product has been laughable.
United need a player to ruffle some feathers both inside their own squad and in that of the opposition. They no longer have anyone who scares you or makes you wary. Ibrahimovic would be perfect for that. Yes he may annoy a few people, but he would also score goals, rile the opposition and produce moments of brilliance that would undoubtedly bring more out of those around him. He has the potential to be a Cantona-like figure.
His presence alone would attract bigger players to the club, something they look set to need if they miss out on the Champions League. Ibrahimovic doesn’t necessarily need to play in Europe’s top competition anymore and you feel that he would see a year away from as a worthy sacrifice for a move to this country.
Ibra would be the main man at Old Trafford, both in terms of character and in terms of position. Anthony Martial has shown he can thrive out wide, and cutting in from the right has proved fruitful this term, while Rooney is more than capable of playing a support role just off a player of the Swede’s ilk, and who knows maybe next season, from the bench.
Not only does it make sense from a playing perspective but also from a dynamic perspective too. There are no massive egos at the Theatre Of Dreams. Rooney is no longer a vital commodity and cannot rule the roost as he has succeeded in doing in the past, while the only player who would have the right to function with any form of inflated sense of importance is Martial, and he simply is not that sort of person.
Throw in the fact that Ibra is a huge fan of Jose Mourinho and this looks the perfect recipe for the rapid rebuilding of a footballing giant. A couple of years of a Zlatan/Mou combination may not be the most progressive mantra but it would certainly instil some confidence and redevelop the impenetrable aura that once surrounded Manchester United and Old Trafford.