English Premiership

Ibrahimovic, Mourinho fail to live up to top billing

2016-11-06 05:50
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Getty Images)

Manchester - Modesty and failure are not terms that spring to mind when describing either Swede striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Portuguese coach José Mourinho.

When the two joined Manchester United at the start of the current season, Red Devils fans were not only looking forward to an entertaining few months ahead...they were also hoping for success.

Ten games into the season, and there has been neither success nor entertainment.

Last Saturday’s uninspiring 0-0 draw against Burnley at Old Trafford left United eight points behind the dominating trio of Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool, and seven points behind Chelsea.

One of the reasons United has failed to live up to their preseason hype, is because striker Ibrahimovic has failed to find the goal-scoring form he has had with former clubs.

He began strongly enough, scoring a goal against Bournemouth and two against Southampton in his first two matches, giving United an excellent start to the season with six points from six games.

He scored another goal against City at their local city derby, where United suffered a 2-1 defeat, but has since failed to find the back of the net.

He again failed to score on Thursday in the Uefa Europa League against Fenerbahçe.

Ibrahimovic is used to being the star forward, with the team’s game moulded more towards his own, not the other way around. But with Paul Pogba and teenage sensation Marcus Rashford, United already have two top-notch strikers on the field.

The 2009/10 Premier League season with Barcelona was Ibrahimovic’s most disappointing. He was often left fuming after coach Pep Guardiola substituted him with the emerging Lionel Messi in many of Barcelona’s big games. That season is the only blip on his impressive club career so far.

Since emerging on the European football scene with Ajax Amsterdam in the 2001/02 season, Ibrahimovic has been hammering in goals, helping his previous clubs to succeed and creating a name for himself.

The 2001/02 season with Ajax, and the one with Juventus four years later, are the only two seasons during which the Swede did not obtain a total goal tally in the double digits.

Stints in the Serie A with Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan and finally with big-spending French club Paris St Germain highlighted what was already known: he is one of the best strikers in the world.

But it’s not only the 35-year-old’s goal-scoring exploits that have grabbed attention over the years; he has made regular headlines with outrageous statements.

After Sweden had been eliminated by Portugal from qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, he said: “One thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing to watch.”

He certainly does not lack self-confidence, once making the statement: “I can’t help but laugh at how perfect I am.”

He had a chance to move to the Premier League as a 17-year-old, explaining many years later: “[Arsène] Wenger asked me to have a trial with Arsenal. I turned it down. Zlatan doesn’t do auditions.”

When he finally made the leap across the channel many years later, some were sceptical as to whether he was too old for the fast-paced English game. He dismissed their concerns by promising to deliver spectacularly despite rapidly approaching the wrong side of 30. “I’m like a fine wine. The older I am, the better I get,” he said.

United are hoping that the striker will be able to rekindle the relationship he had with Mourinho during their time at Inter Milan.

The Special One described Ibrahimovic as “very special, he is one of the best strikers in the world”.

However, both have failed to bring anything special to a United eager to go back to the glory days of Sir Alex Ferguson. Without drastic change of fortune, United fans could well brace themselves for an un-special season.

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05 December 2016
Middlesbrough v Hull City, Riverside Stadium 22:00
10 December 2016
Watford v Everton, Vicarage Road Stadium 14:30
Arsenal v Stoke City, Emirates Stadium 17:00
Hull City v Crystal Palace, Kingston Communications Stadium 17:00
Swansea City v Sunderland, Liberty Stadium 17:00
Burnley v AFC Bournemouth, Turf Moor 17:00
Leicester City v Manchester City, King Power Stadium 19:30
11 December 2016
Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion, Stamford Bridge 14:00
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, Old Trafford 16:15
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