Dare to loathe him- Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a pretty difficult man to dislike, even if you aren’t the biggest of Manchester United supporters.
The Swede will bring undoubted quality, personality and the ability to make a headline with him to England but for some people, there is still a little doubt as to whether he can shine week-in, week-out at the top level in the country.
Hernan Crespo was quick to write about Zlatan and Ibrahimovic when given the chance to write for the Guardian earlier this month, where he suggested the two of them “Will make Manchester United winners again”. Praise indeed from the Argentinian, who was long considered one of the best strikers in the modern-game.
And Ibrahimovic’s headed winner in the Community Shield against Leicester was a typical display of what the Swede has done during his whole career- finding the space and using his power to beat the defenders. It’s what has made him one of the best players in the world, and he’s deserved that title on many an occasion.
But his movement, posture and positioning in the game threw Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United future further into doubt and it seems like playing Zlatan ultimately means Rooney won’t play on the pitch.
Ibrahimoivic is a poacher, a hard worker and a grafter. Sound similar? The Swede remains in striking positions until he becomes frustrated, where he drops deep, knowing that when he was at PSG, the likes of Di Maria, Pastore, Veratti and Cavani were all ready to run in behind.
At United, this simply isn’t going to happen- Rooney is just too similar to the Swede. Playing them both will be confusing and at times frustrating to watch as their mirrored games fail to compliment the rest of the United squad.
Ibrahimovic worked so well at PSG because he had those runners, often in a 4-3-3 formation to give him so much freedom going forward. But United’s more rigid shape means this won’t work quite as well and it has thrown Ibrahimoivc’s quality into question even before the season has begun.
Unfortunately for Rooney, playing someone like Rashford up top with the Swede will be so much more effective. He’ll be the runner to compliment the movement Ibra provides, creating the space for him to work his magic with zany runs and the ability to pull defenders aside. These are all traits Rooney no-longer has as he has dropped further back on the pitch.
So for Zlatan to work to the best of his ability at United, Jose has to think of a system where best to play him. Sacrifices will have to be made somewhere along the line, which could upset some more than it does others.