Marcus Rashford believes there is a common winning mentality shared by Bruno Fernandes and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – something Manchester United must channel if they are to get back to winning silverware.
Ibrahimovic is in line to return from an abductor injury when Milan host his former club in the Europa League on Thursday, with the round-of-16 tie all square at 1-1.
The veteran forward, whose surprise return to international football with Sweden was confirmed this week, joined United on a free transfer in 2016 and was a talismanic figure during his first season in England.
Across all competitions, Ibrahimovic scored 28 goals – including a brace in United’s 3-2 EFL Cup final win over Southampton.
The Red Devils also lifted the Europa League in that season under Jose Mourinho although by the time of their final triumph over Ajax, Ibrahimovic was sidelined by a serious knee injury.
He returned to action ahead of schedule but departed to LA Galaxy midway through the following campaign.
United now frequently look to Portugal midfielder Fernandes for inspiration.
The former Sporting CP star has scored 35 goals – the most of any Premier League player in all competitions since his United debut on February 1 last year – and provided 21 assists in 65 appearances for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
“Yeah, you could say so,” Rashford told reporters when asked whether Ibrahimovic and Fernandes were similar.
7 – Marcus Rashford has scored seven goals in European competition this season for Manchester United – excluding qualifiers, this is the most by an Englishman in a season for the Red Devils since Bobby Charlton scored eight in the 1964-65 Fairs Cup. Devil. pic.twitter.com/I3ZiWa7Gyx
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 18, 2021
“Mentally they’re both just winners. They want to win games, win trophies.
“That’s the atmosphere and the culture at this club. We need to start doing it now, winning trophies and taking steps in that direction.
“The game against Milan is another opportunity for us to get one step closer.
“Ever since we unfortunately got knocked out of the Champions League the focus has been to win the Europa League. We’re not going to be happy with anything less than that.”
Longevity in the sport comparable to Ibrahimovic is something a long way away for the 23-year-old Rashford.
The home leg against Milan was the first of United’s games this season that the England international sat out after a minor injury he sustained during the derby victory over Manchester City, while he is also managing a shoulder complaint.
Nevertheless, Rashford dismissed any concerns over burnout.
“I know my body and I know what I can do physically,” he said, with his availability an ongoing boost to Solskjaer after Edinson Cavani suffered a reaction in the final training session before the trip to Italy, forcing him to pull out of the travelling party.
“I take one game at a time. It’s the life of a footballer – we can rest when we retire.
“I recover from games and injuries quite well, so I have no doubts or fears on that.
“To be honest, I just focus on the next game at hand. That’s how I deal with it. My focus is just on being available for games.”
Another player from the United production line that yielded Rashford, Teden Mengi, has signed a contract extension until June 2024.
Mengi is currently on loan at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County.
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