Football has an age old saying – ‘The centre-forward has to deliver’ in most of the games. But Manchester United’s star-studded new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not delivering the same. The big Swedish’s inability to finish off chances in front of goals may have already cost the Red Devils a chance in the title race.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored six goals in 11 Premier League matches till now and has one more in the Europa league. Four of the goals from these are from only two matches when he scored a brace against Bournemouth and another one against Swansea this weekend. However, before the Swansea game, the Swede last netted on 10 September when he pulled a goal back for United in the 42nd minute of the Manchester derby at Old Trafford and after that witnessed a goalless sequence of 498 minutes till this weekend.
Since making his debut for Malmo in 1999 Ibrahimovic’s CV boasts some of Europe’s top clubs from Ajax to Juventus, then Inter Milan, Barcelona to AC Milan and PSG. The striker who has won a staggering 30 trophies in four countries for six teams also has one of the best goals to game ratio with 392 in 677.
Ibrahimovic was marked by Mourinho as his attacking solution, the man to represent the Portuguese’s strong style. He was expected to accomplish for United’s attack what Diego Costa, Didier Drogba accomplished for Chelsea when Mourinho drove them to league titles in the Premier League. However, the Swedish has come to be the undesirable epitome of United’s hardships. As his fortunes have gone south, so have the rest of the squad’s.
Manchester United had 37 shots against Sean Dyche’s Burnley of which 12 were Ibrahimovic’s. However, he missed one after another. Towards the end at Old Trafford, the veteran striker could have won a valuable three points when Paul Pogba discovered him close Tom Heaton’s objective but the Swedish failed to convert once more. It was a similar story at Anfield in the 0-0 draw with Liverpool when a Pogba cross tumbled to him. The same story went by when he missed a chance to equalize against Chelsea before the humiliating defeat.
Ibrahimovic may have scored 113 goals in four seasons with PSG, however the French Ligue 1 gameplay is different from the Premier League. In 31 PSG appearances last season, Ibrahimovic scored 38 times or every 67.2 minutes whereas at United the ratio is a goal every 225 minutes.
It cannot be denied that Zlatan is currently 35 years old and the Swedish will probably have lost anticipation and a yard of pace in these years which is very normal. He currently may have quality and strength on his side but Premier League’s gameplay is more physical, faster, and defensively more sorted out and the striker won’t find a bit amount of time and space to react which he got in France. Just as a comparison, Marcus Rashford’s three goals in six games is a superior ratio than him and have come regardless of him being conveyed out wide.
In a nutshell, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has turned into a fringe figure but none but him can change the circumstances from here on and this is the ideal situation from where he can answer his critics. He may not have performed on a consistent basis but he is surely capable of scoring goals. Six goals in 11 matches in the League can’t be labeled as a flop but same way it is not great either. The Swedish still can change a game by himself which he provided last weekend against Swansea by scoring two brilliant goals. There are still plenty of games to play and Zlatan’s previous goal scoring record says he can again turn the table. But the question is can he do it in a competitive league like Premier League on a regular basis? Only time will tell.
Photo by Doha Stadium Plus