Zlatan Ibrahimovic has reflected fondly on his time at Manchester United, where his more youthful team-mates made him feel “like Benjamin Button”.
The former Sweden international arrived at Old Trafford as a 35-year-old free agent ahead of 2016-17 and scored 28 goals across all competitions as United lifted the Community Shield, the EFL Cup and the Europa League.
A serious knee injury meant he missed the conclusion of that campaign and the start of the next, before it was announced in March that he would depart for LA Galaxy in MLS.
Now 37, Ibrahimovic enjoyed a fine first season in Los Angeles, scoring 22 goals in just 27 league outings, but the typically self-assured striker concedes he does miss his ex-United colleagues.
And Ibrahimovic compared his experience to feeling like Benjamin Button, a film character portrayed by Brad Pitt in the story of a man who is born old and gets younger as life progresses.
“They [critics] thought I was too old, I was 35 and I made the Premier League look old,” Ibrahimovic told BBC Sport. “It took me three months to convince everyone who I was. That was the challenge and I never turn down a challenge.
“I miss all of them. I had a fantastic time at United. Wazza [Wayne Rooney], Michael Carrick, then the young guys that wanted to show the world who they are by playing football and they had a lot of hunger to show.
“I had a good time because I got to know everyone, I was the mature guy with all these guys who were not mature.
“They made me feel like Benjamin Button. I was getting younger and younger, then unfortunately I got my injury.
“The Premier League should be happy I did not come 10 years ago because it would’ve been a different story. You see all my numbers [of goals] and all of these numbers would’ve been in the Premier League.
“I came to the right club in United. It was the club and the shirt that I was supposed to shine in and I did it.”
Next week my new book I am football is out! It is a book about my career as a football player and it has been a lot of fun working on it. Lots of pictures and interviews with me and with people I have worked with through my career. pic.twitter.com/CrkAW2425k
— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) November 1, 2018
Ibrahimovic also had praise for Paul Pogba, whose performances since a then world-record move from Juventus in 2016 have divided opinion.
“Paul Pogba, I had never played with him before and I didn’t know him as a person,” said the Swede.
“We have the same management and when I got to know him I got to find a fantastic person and a fantastic footballer, but someone who needs to be guided.
“He is a professional guy that works every game and never misses training or a game. Those are all the things that people do not see, you only get judged by what you can see on television or the 90 minutes in the stadium, that’s where you have to perform.
“When you click with someone it just clicks. The connection on the field was amazing, we helped each other very well, I needed him and he needed me.
“The first year at United we had a fantastic year.”
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