Saturday 20 January 2018 / 02:02 PM


You might have seen professional bore Michael Owen criticising the short-termism of Manchester United summer signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic this week.

Owen’s comments had some merit, but what they failed to account for is the fact that what Zlatan is doing at Old Trafford is what he does best: score goals. And the important thing is this: goals win games.

He has now scored 10 goals in his last nine games, with the winner in both of the last two – Zlatan’s form has most certainly coincided with United’s upsurge in form.

There’s little doubt that the criticism he has received has only spurred him on further. The only question for me is why there was criticism in the first place.

I’ll be the first to admit to being sceptical when the Swede first arrived on these shores. It seemed like a veteran looking for one last payday. I questioned whether a 35-year-old would be able to hack the pace of the Premier League.

I was quick to admit that I was wrong. Not only has the striker already broken the 10-goal mark, he has also played nearly every game.

He might not have incredibly acceleration. He might not be the quickest player on the field.

But Ibrahimovic’s talent and the touch are still there. The powerful aerial threat is still there, in abundance. The impudence, confidence and strength – all still there, all in spades.

Lest we forget, Zlatan has been one of the best players in the world for the last decade. That hasn’t changed. And crucially, his best attributes fit perfectly into a Jose Mourinho side looking to grind out results.

He can hold the ball up. He can bring wingers into play. He can finish, with both feet and with his head. He’s perfect for this system, and with quick players like Henrik Mkhitaryan at his disposal, his ageing legs matter less. Especially when he’s clearly well preserved enough to play a couple of games a week.

Michael Owen might be right that Zlatan is a short-term fix. But if he’s the temporary solution that wins United the Europa League and gets them in the top four, then he has had a long-term impact; and if that happens, the success of the move cannot be questioned.

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Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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