Zlatan Ibrahimovic left the comfortable home he had at Paris St Germain, in order to test himself at Manchester United, a bold and brave move for someone with such a high profile. He was 34 years old and soon he would turn 35, everyone doubted him whether it was a small portion of United fans, rival fans or experts. He was ridiculed by nearly everyone and yet he proved them all wrong. At the age of 35, Zlatan scored 28 goals and won 3 trophies, including the first European trophy of his career.
The Barclay’s Premier League may well be the most entertaining league in the world, a league where anything can happen. But in August the EPL met it’s match, the worlds most entertaining league met the worlds most entertaining player. Sure, on the pitch Ronaldo and Messi take that honour, but in terms of a mixture of character off the pitch and performance on the pitch, there is truly no one in the world that captivates and entertains the masses like Mr. Ibrahimovic. The impact he had on the league this year was special, everyone tuned in just to see Zlatan, whether is was to see his silky skills or his post match interviews, people were intrigued. The larger than life character marched into a league he had never set foot in and instantly set it a light scoring a 30 yard driven shot into the far corner just out of reach of Artur Boruc, the Bournemouth keeper, but he didn’t stop there.
Zlatan was on fire all season and if it wasn’t for the season ending injury he sustained, he may well have reached 40 goals, but we’ll never know. At times Zlatan did play like a 35 year old should do, slowing play down, sloppy touches and generally looking like he doesn’t belong in such an elite league. But every player has there off days, no matter how good they are. Zlatan ended his first and only Premier League season with 27 appearances, 17 goals and 5 assists. But these stats don’t show you how important he was for Man Utd when it came to winning games. He was clinical at times when scoring looked impossible. There was his match winning goal at Crystal Palace in December, where he slotted a beautiful left footed shot past the keeper, for example. But the game that really stands out was the League Cup final against Southampton, the magnificent number 9 scored twice to see United lift the trophy, one exquisite free kick and a vital 87th minute header to send United 3-2 up in the dying minutes and win the game.
To say the signing of Ibrahimovic directly led to Manchester United qualifying for the Champions League would be an obvious statement. He may not have played in the final but his performances and goals led the team there. But his impact went far beyond his goals and the trophies he contributed to. He was a key factor in helping Pogba settle in, in his first real season in the Premier League. The knowledge he would have given to the younger players would have been invaluable and the advice he would have given to Rashford will help the young Englishman for many years to come.
Last week it was announced Ibra’s Man Utd contract would not be renewed, although he deserved one this wasn’t surprising to anyone given the circumstances, but it was sad. There are rumours circulating now that the sensational Swede is off to play for LA Galaxy, making his stay in England a very short one. Zlatan’s one season will be remembered for his brilliance on the pitch and the hilarity he ensued off it. He’s truly one of a kind. Thank you for everything Zlatan.