Football: Drama in store as Zlatan Ibrahimovic writes final chapter

Ibrahimovic (above) says he is joining Manchester United, ending intense speculation about where the 34-year-old Swedish superstar will be playing next season.
Ibrahimovic (above) says he is joining Manchester United, ending intense speculation about where the 34-year-old Swedish superstar will be playing next season.PHOTO: AFP

STOCKHOLM (REUTERS) - Zlatan Ibrahimovic is poised to write the final chapter in a glittering career with Manchester United in England's Premier League and although drama is guaranteed, a happy ending is not.

A reunion with Jose Mourinho at one of the game's most iconic clubs who have fallen on hard times is a perfect recipe for a season of twists and turns, on and off the field.

The prospect of one of the biggest egos in the game at one of the largest clubs in the world, and in a country which has often questioned Ibra's self-confessed greatness, will make for compelling viewing when the new season kicks off in August.

But given his advancing years, the recent turmoil at Old Trafford and the lack of Champions League football next season, there are clouds on the horizon.

After leaving Paris St Germain following four trophy-laden seasons in the French capital, the 34-year-old arrives at a club reeling from three turbulent seasons in which they have struggled to recreate the glory days of Alex Ferguson.

Ibra's arrival should be a major boost to United as they seek to re-establish themselves as a force in the Premier League, but he is not without recent baggage of his own.

He may have banged in goals for fun in France, but his underwhelming performances in the Champions League as PSG were knocked out by Manchester City at the quarter-final stage attracted much criticism.

It is not the first time he has failed to shine against an English side, leaving many fans to wonder if in fact he was worthy of the slew of league titles he won in Netherlands, Spain, Italy and France, or if he simply played for teams that were much better and richer than their domestic rivals.

WENT MISSING

He departed PSG only to return to France a few weeks later with Sweden for Euro 2016, but once again he went missing when his side needed him most against Ireland, Italy and Belgium.

Indeed, the ease with which the Irish journeyman backline comprised of Sunderland's John O'Shea and Ciaran Clark, who was relegated from the Premier League last season with Aston Villa, was able to handle him will be cause for concern for his new employers.

 

As his brief spell at Barcelona showed, he is not known for calming troubled waters in the dressing room and he could clash with United's other big names such as Wayne Rooney as a new hierarchy is established.

In his favour is his excellent relationship with new United boss Mourinho.

They won the Italian league title together at Inter Milan and the Portuguese coach is one of the few people in football whose opinion Ibrahimovic respects.

It is clear that a career spent as one of the most feared frontmen in the game has taken its toll on Ibrahimovic, and despite his enormous physical strength, he has battled a number of niggling injuries in recent years.

With retirement looming, he has also devoted more time to his commercial interests and there is little doubt that playing for global brand like Manchester United played a big part in his decision to move to England.

What is undimmed, however, is his burning desire to win and while it may not be guaranteed that he will do so at Old Trafford, it will be fascinating for English football fans to see if he can live up to his own considerable hype.