After months of speculation it looks like Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s arrival at Manchester United is imminent. It has been reported that the big Swede’s agent Mino Raiola has agreed a whopping £220k a week pay packet.
Now Zlatan is seeking assurances from new United Manager Jose Mourinho that he will be an important part of the team before he signs. He’s 34 years of age and never played in the Premier League before. He’s coming off the back of a great season in France with Paris Saint Germain but Ligue 1 is a wasteland, a baron post-apocalyptic landscape where the financially mutated PSG stomp around consuming every opponent leaving the carcasses for the likes of Lyon and Monaco to pick at. It’s a cake walk, the football equivalent of a peak-era Mike Tyson going up against 19 five year olds who’ve seen Rocky V.
So what can he offer United?
Mourinho likes to play one up front with two inverted wingers. Zlatan will be that one up front. He was never blessed with any real pace so he won’t be running in behind opposing defenders but he won’t need to. His job will be to hold up the ball and bring players like Anthony Martial, Memphis Depay and Marcus Rashford into the game. He will also bring a bit of arrogance to the team. He is a walking advertisement for self belief, something which has been sorely lacking from United since Alex Ferguson stepped down as manager.
Last season United signed Bastian Schweinsteiger from Bayern Munich in the hope that the German captain could bring his winning mentality with him. Well he didn’t, he’s been awful. He is no longer able to perform in the middle of the park like he used to, but central midfield is a much more physically demanding role. Zlatan arriving is more like when Robin Van Persie came in from Arsenal. He will know exactly what he is tasked with doing and unlike Schweinsteiger he is still capable of doing it. It’s only a one year deal and the money is astronomical but if the mercurial Swede can inject just a little bit of his arrogance into some of United’s talented young attackers the club will feel the benefit for years to come.
Mourinho is well aware that in Zlatan he isn’t just signing a player, he’s signing an attitude. Arguably that attitude is worth more to the club in the long term. If the squad’s young talent can take a little bit of Zlatan’s self belief moving forward that could be more valuable than anything he does on the pitch.