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Mata hails influence of ´joker´ Ibrahimovic

Juan Mata says Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s dressing-room “banter” has been a huge benefit to Manchester United this season.

The former Sweden captain has been praised regularly by manager Jose Mourinho for his influence on the younger players at Old Trafford, even during his recent goal drought, when he went six games without scoring.

And Mata says Ibrahimovic’s attitude among his team-mates has been a breath of fresh air during an inconsistent campaign for the club.

“He has brought a lot of things to the team, not just his mentality, but his way of understanding football, his way of behaving with the players in the dressing room,” Mata told talkSPORT.

“He is always pushing buttons in the right moment and in the right way trying to motivate everyone and he is a very funny guy so he is a very good addition for the team.

“He is always joking, always doing banter and pushing the buttons in the right moment in the right way to the right persons. It is good for the dressing room, this character.”

Ibrahimovic is United’s top scorer this term with eight goals in 17 games, and has only missed one match – the 4-1 Europa League win over Fenerbahce last month – despite having turned 35 on October 3.

Mata believes the former Paris Saint-Germain star boasts attributes that make him unique in the modern game.

“It is very difficult to have all the things that he has,” he said. “When people say this is the next [Lionel] Messi, or the next Cristiano [Ronaldo], or the next Ibrahimovic, or the next [Wayne] Rooney, or whoever it is, it is very difficult because they are one of a kind.

“He has great physical strength combined with great quality, great flexibility, great movement and reading of the game, so he has almost everything.

“He has as well a strong personality, which has helped him a lot through the years. He says all the time that he really feels it his mentality that sets him apart.

“I am very happy that he is here because I am always happy to play with great players during my career and obviously he is one of the best strikers in the game.”

Fri 11 Nov, 2016
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