Thursday 22 March 2018 / 10:59 AM


So, the rumours seem to be true: it’s been all but confirmed Manchester United are bringing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Old Trafford.

On one level, this seems like utter genius. The footballer with the biggest ego, finally at a club that matches that ego. The club, devoid of true class for a number of years, finally land the player the rest of the world covets.

But on another level, this seems like a really silly move, especially considering it’ll be one of the first things Jose Mourinho does at United.

Here’s why:

Ibrahimovic is 34. He’s reaching the end of his career. As good as he was in the French League, there are absolutely no guarantees that he’ll be able to have the same sort of impact in a faster, more physical and more competitive Premier League. None whatsoever.

For Mourinho to pin his hopes on the Swedish striker would be a gamble – a big gamble indeed.

Because, let’s face it, he would have to pin his hopes on Ibrahimovic. One does not sign Ibrahimovic only to put him on the bench. If he’s fit, he plays, and by signing the veteran, Mourinho would basically be agreeing to design his team around the uber-confident forward.

That’s fine if he’s one of the best players in the league. Another thing entirely if he’s struggling and trying to get used to a new style of play and a new division.

At Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter Milan, Mourinho has always had a forward he can depend upon. A player who’s able to hold the ball up, is physically strong and knows how to finish. On paper it seems like Ibrahimovic ticks all those boxes.

But the trouble is, none of us know how he is going to adapt to Premier League football. The English league has got the better of a number of illustrious players, including Shevchenko, Crespo and Veron, and who’s to say that the same won’t happen to Zlatan?

The Swede is confidence personified, and if it’s confidence that wins Premier League titles, then Mourinho will sleep easy having got the striker’s signature. But unfortunately, football games are won with more than confidence.

Just to be clear, Ibrahimovic is one of the best players of the modern era, but that doesn’t guarantee he’ll hit the ground running in the Premier League. And if he doesn’t, Mourinho will be under pressure both to drop him and to give him a chance – most likely simultaneously.

It could unfold gloriously well, or it could be a disaster. The unpredictability of the outcome is very un-Mourinho, the ultimate pragmatist. And in his debut season for United, he could do with a predictable – and positive – outcome.

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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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