Written by : Siddesh K Iyer
Back in July 2016, a certain 35 year old “young” man decided that it was his right to announce his arrival to the biggest club in England and arguably in the world… Yes, Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined Manchester United. Now, as expected the “vultures” in the media simply had to pounce at the idea of a 35 year old who was “past his best” leading the line for one of England’s most decorated clubs; so what was Ibra’s response?
“I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic and I’m just warming up!”
He ended up scoring a whopping 28 goals in 46 appearances for United in all competitions with a commendable 10 assists in the bag. He also bagged the first major European title of his career with the UEFA Europa League along with the EFL Cup and the FA Community Shield. Now the response to his critics was pure class….
“I need new haters. The old ones became my fans!”
The class, the ego and the drive that United craved for, since maybe the Eric Cantona era had returned to Old Trafford with Zlatan. A maverick in all senses, with a keen eye for goal and a technical prowess, possibly matched by none. He literally drove United on his own for most parts of the season. Well, nothing great there, we knew this was coming, the way he started off in the pre-season friendly vs Galatasaray (his debut) , with a sumptuous scissor kick volley. He’d already set the scene for what was to follow in the months to come. Community Shield? Goal… Won his first piece of silverware with United. Premier League debut vs Bournemouth? I remember when I was watching the game back here in India, I simply had to stand and applaud the audacity of this man when he absolutely lashed in his first PL goal for United yards outside the box. And as Peter Drury quite rightly summed it up in the commentary box…
“Ibrahimovic!!! What a goal! What a player! England, welcome your newest Superstar!!”
That’s what he did! Got you off your seats with an out of the box moment that hardly anyone could predict! And then, he always had the support of his manager, his “beloved” Jose Mourinho.
“I’d even kill for Mourinho” – Zlatan (during his time at Inter
Crossing, heading, tricks with the ball, beating his man, finishing… Is there anything that this man can’t do? Putting the ball in the back of net was child’s play for Zlatan! Where people had predicted that he’d find it tough to acclimatize to the Premier League, now the rest of the League was finding it tough to cope with Zlatan! Then came , the EFL Cup final vs Southampton. Again at Wembley, same old Zlatan Ibrahimovic! Two goals… One stunning free kick and the winner in the final which ended 3-2 in United’s favour thanks to Ibra. He never took his foot off the gas though, continuing his rich vein of form in front of goal. Banging in goals for fun. He went on to bag his first hat-trick for United vs Saint-Etienne in the UEFA Europa League. Things were looking pretty smooth for the Swede, when a dark day finally and agonizingly arrived. The Quarter Final of the Europa League vs Anderlecht. A leap in the air, an awkward landing and that was it. Severe ligament damage in the knee and that was that for the season. Even then, a “lion” as he calls himself, never backs down; he went off walking off the pitch with such a severe injury and not even a call for a stretcher. United went on to clinch the Europa League, with Zlatan being the central figure in the final celebrations in Stockholm. His recovery post surgery was even more miraculous. Determination, strength and the drive to succeed, central in his revival. However, things never turned out to be same for Zlatan and United. He never managed to get into the groove that he’s known for and the 2017-18 season never went according to plan for the Swedish legend.
Less than a week ago, Zlatan and United decided to mutually terminate the contract, paving the way for the “Lion” to move to Hollywood. Ibrahimovic has now joined MLS club LA Galaxy in his new stint in the US based soccer league. Well, there are no doubt as to whether he’s going to take the league by storm or not; but one thing’s for sure, we United fans will never forget his time at the club, all that he achieved with us or rather helped us achieve and the moments when he made you think…” Is this guy human at all?” But then as Zlatan himself said…
“Lions don’t compare themselves to humans.”
ALL THE VERY BEST ZLATAN!
featured image credit ManUtd.com