Manchester United signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer this summer from Paris Saint-Germain, and expectations are high of the veteran striker given his outstanding scoring record with former clubs.
However, his advancing age, coupled with the rigours of a physical Premier League campaign and his limited skill set to match his manager’s demands, is likely to mean extended time on the bench. So will Ibrahimovic make much of an impact on the pitch?
Move to the Premier League came too late
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has always spoken about a desire to play in the Premier League, but believed he’d left it too late to make the switch back in 2015. He’s been linked with the league’s top clubs throughout the years, but has always resisted in favour of the Dutch Eredivisie, Italian Serie A, Spanish La Liga and French Ligue 1.
The Swedish international turns 35 in October, and will be embarking upon arguably his most challenging division yet. Ibrahimovic doesn’t have a good record when coming up against English clubs, and it’s largely due to the man-marking tactics used to quell his threat.
The athleticism and physicality of English sides sees Ibrahimovic having little effect in the final third at times, and in the Premier League it’s going to be even more intense. However, the veteran centre-forward left Paris Saint-Germain with 156 goals from 180 games in all competitions, and has shone wherever he’s move to in his career.
No longer has the skill set to lead the line in a Mourinho side
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is expected to mould the side to his typical counter-attacking style, with emphasis on industry in the wide areas and mobility in attack. At Chelsea, Diego Costa was a perfect balance of athleticism to make runs off the ball, while being strong enough to hold his own against two centre-backs.
Ibrahimovic will certainly provide the strength and power in attack, but his lack of pace will mean Manchester United won’t be able to get in behind their opponent’s backline. And with the Red Devils having an abundance of pacey forwards, it’s hard to see their summer signing being more than subsidiary in the starting eleven.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is 9/1 to be the Premier League’s top goalscorer next season. But will supporters see much of the 35-year-old on the pitch? He could be brought on the pitch late in games in the early stages of next season, but it’s hard to see the experienced striker being a regular starter for United.