Ibrahimovic gets another year to 'shine' at United

LONDON • Jose Mourinho's announcement that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will stay at Manchester United for a second season was a bold statement of faith in a striker still trying to prove himself in the English Premier League.

The manager swatted away questions about the 35-year-old's pace and suitability, effectively tying their fates together as they seek a way to turn around the club's season.

"We are going to execute the option of a second season," said Mourinho. "After that, he can do what he wants."

While it is not hard to see why Ibrahimovic would re-sign a one-year deal reported to be worth £260,000 (S$464,500) a week, some United fans question whether he remains the right man to spearhead their attack into his 37th year.

The goals have dried up after five in his first five games.

Since then, he has netted three times in 12 attempts - once against Ukrainian side FC Zorya in the Europa League and twice versus Swansea, the English top flight's bottom side.

The Swede defended himself with characteristic charm on Wednesday, when it was suggested at a news conference that he had not shone this season.

"I shine for 24 hours (a day), so it depends how you want me to shine," he said.

"I've been in the game for 20 years and, while I'm getting older, I feel I'm getting better as I get older.

"I am shining in one way or another but, if you want me to shine even more, then I will try and do it for you."

The problem is that Mourinho has already identified a lack of pace as a problem for his attack, the Portuguese boss' explanation for overlooking Wayne Rooney at home to Arsenal last Saturday was because the 31-year-old England international was too slow.

Wednesday's contract announcement was all the more surprising because Ibrahimovic had suggested earlier this week that he might "out-Napoleon Napoleon" by decamping to Major League Soccer in the United States.

"Perhaps I should do what Napoleon didn't and cross the Atlantic and conquer the States as well," he told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.

But first he must conquer Manchester.

With Ibrahimovic bagging a trophy every season since 2001, including 13 league titles, and a statue to be erected in his honour in Stockholm, Mourinho clearly believes the Swede will deliver.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2016, with the headline 'Ibrahimovic gets another year to 'shine' at United'. Print Edition | Subscribe