Jose Mourinho and other football stars were vocal in praising Zlatan Ibrahimovic after his spectacular game against Southampton at the weekend. The forward scored twice, including the late game winner. This is his 26th goal in all competitions this season.
Mourinho, the Manchester United manager, would have to have been the happiest with Zlatan’s performance. The late goal helped Mourinho win his first important trophy at Old Trafford. Previously, Manchester had won the Charity Shield against Leicester at the start of the season. United have the chance of winning a treble of trophies (including FA Cup and Europa League) and their recent run of form is an encouragement they can do just that.
“Zlatan won the game for us, he was outstanding,”, said Jose Mourinho when speaking to Sky Sports after the game. “There were a couple of performances like Pogba who was at a similar level but Zlatan was outstanding in a match where our opponent was better than us for large periods of the game. Southampton deserved to go to extra-time, they didn’t deserve to lose in 90 minutes, but he made the difference and won us the cup.”
Jose Mourinho also talked about how winning trophies will impact his team’s morale. “This is the first one plus the Charity Shield,” said the United manager. “For the development of the team there is nothing better than doing it with a feeling of trophies.”
“We now have Bournemouth in the Premier League, Rostov in the Europa league, Chelsea in the FA Cup – so much to play for. I could feel the difference in freshness between one team and the other. We would have been in trouble had it gone to extra time. I had to make the team compact because the fuel was in their legs and not in ours.”
Meanwhile former United defender Phil Neville compared Ibrahimovic to the influence Eric Cantona had on the club.
“Zlatan is the leader. I know Wayne Rooney lifted the cup but Zlatan is the leader on the pitch,” Neville told Sky Sports. “When Cantona walked onto the pitch with his collar up he looked like he loved Old Trafford, he had the aura and confidence. Ibrahimovic is the same.”
The board and fans alike hold Eric Cantona in very high regard at Old Trafford. The general consensus is that Cantona’s transfer to Man United was the catalyst needed by the club at the time. With his addition Alex Ferguson was able to create a team that would dominate English football for many years. Similarly, Zlatan’s arrival at United helped put the team back on track to winning trophies.
“Sometimes you hate people who have that much arrogance but I love that because he delivers at the same time.When you’re a manager and join a new club you need one player who sings off your hymn sheet. Ibrahimovic is that player for Mourinho,” Neville went on to say.
As for the man himself, Zlatan has never shied from self praise. With performances like the one against Southampton the striker is not looking towards retirement any time soon.
“What I bring, I bring a package. I bring my experience from the other clubs I’ve been in, I bring what I have achieved, I bring the person that I am,” Ibrahimovic said.
“I’m an animal. I feel like a lion. The lion is born a lion. It means I’m a lion! I feel in good shape. I train hard. People who know me from the locker room know that I train very hard. I have an objective every season I go into. And to reach that objective I need to train hard and I need to suffer when I train that is how I achieve what I achieve. I’m from the old school where they work hard and get what they get from doing the hard work not like the new school where it is easy to get what you want.”