What’s eating Ibrahimovic? Five ways Mourinho and Man Utd can get the best out of Zlatan
Five ways Man Utd can get the best out of Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s scoring drought has certainly been causing a stir in some quarters. The Swedish superstar is currently on a six-game dry run without a goal in all competitions for Manchester United, and now some pundits are calling for the 35-year-old to be cast aside.
So, when will the mighty Zlatan next score? Coral have priced up an awesome Ibrahimovic scorer special just for lucky punters, who can now place a stake on when exactly the big Swede will again ripple the back of the onion bag.
Ibra’s last goal arrived in the Europa League as the winner against Ukrainian minnows Zorya. So, if you reckon Man Utd’s marksman will get back to scoring ways in Europe, you can back odds of 15/8 for Ibrahimovic to end his drought against Fenerbahce on Thursday, November 3rd.
Or, if you reckon Zlatan will have to wait a little longer, there’s a 6/1 price for him to finally next poach at home to Dutch club Feyenoord on Thursday, November 24th.
In the meantime, Coral writers have come up with five ways Man Utd can get the best out of Ibrahimovic. After all, you don’t go from striking a formidable 50 goals in 51 games for PSG last season, to such poor form for no reason…
See Zlatan’s best in a Utd shirt so far:
Show the Swede he can be benched
Nope, we’re not calling for a cull here, simply a kick in the right direction. Notorious dropper of Real Madrid icon Iker Casillas and flogger of Chelsea heroes Frank Lampard and Petr Cech – Jose Mourinho needs to show his ruthless streak again.
Red Devils captain Wayne Rooney has already lost his place to Ibrahimovic, and now Mourinho must show there is equality by also benching Ibra when in poor form.
It’s true that there are no other consistent scorers in the squad, with Ibra on six in 15 across all competitions, but young-guns Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have shown they can handle the responsibility of a central role.
Having uncharacteristically missed a glut of chances against Burnley, it’s time for Zlatan to feel the heat. Outspoken he may be, but the sharpshooter is a professional – and having him sit a few fixtures out is only likely to fire him up rather than dent that huge ego.
Remember how critical English press got a taste of their own medicine as Ibra powered four giant goals past England for Sweden? We’re sure Joe Hart does.
Relive Ibrahimovic destroying England:
Surround Zlatan with lightning pace
If the Old Trafford outfit are not to fall too far behind the top four in the English top-flight, beating Swansea City next in the Premier League is essential.
The Swans may be struggling but they’ve beaten United at the Liberty Stadium for the last two seasons running, and are exactly the type of team Mourinho’s men have struggled to break down.
Ibrahimovic is no spring chicken at 35, but he’s still a powerful physical specimen who scored and bullied defenders for fun in his first few weeks in Manchester red.
So, the predatory instincts have not aged overnight, simply Zlatan’s penchant to drop deep to influence is one of the reasons the Red Devils are so easy to defend against – while he’s never been the fastest forward on the planet even at his peak.
So, Mourinho must surround the Swede with speed, directness and players willing to run in behind. This means Ibrahimovic should not be on the pitch if both Rooney or Juan Mata are, plus used sparingly when lightning full back Antonio Valencia is not powering down the right to pump in crosses. And, should ideally always be paired with one or both of Martial or Rashford, depending who is in form.
Ibra is 15/8 to end his torrid run then against the Swans.
Make Mkhitaryan and Mata more central
Juan Mata has been arguably Man Utd’s most creative and effective player this season, even earning the captain’s armband against the Clarets – when many thought Mourinho would discard the maestro.
When Mata starts the stats show United tend to triumph, but the Spaniard can’t play every game in four competitions. Jesse Lingard gets an unusual amount of flak for an England international but, while he always has big game moments in him, he’s not quite consistent enough to be starting in Mata’s place. And nor is Ashley Young!
Mata and Ibrahimovic have shown flashes of combining wonderfully, as two intelligent players on the same wavelength. Ibrahimovic needs, and is used to having, someone of top quality creativity to link up with and to supply him – Mata can be that man. And, when he can’t, Henrik Mkhitaryan should be the first call, considering his exceptional performances for Borussia Dortmund last term.
Play three in midfield with Carrick key
Yes it has been done to death, but manager Mourinho needs to tinker with the shape of his team. The Portuguese’s tried and tested 4-2-3-1 does not best suit the Red Devils against big sides, and without the right puzzle pieces lacks imagination against the smaller fry too.
With noisy neighbours Manchester City playing expansive, fluid football without restrictive roles at the Etihad, and Antonio Conte reinventing three at the back for the PL – Man Utd are starting to look behind the footballing curve.
So, mix it up a bit Mourinho – if only for Zlatan’s sake! When three central midfielders by trade have been in the XI, United have looked a different side. Paul Pogba looks best when allowed to roam, while Ander Herrera’s snappy passing and tackles also best suit having two more partners – ideally with another able to conduct from deep.
Quarterback-esque midfielder Michael Carrick is finally starting to be used more frequently, and if there is one player who can reap the rewards of the Englishman’s raking long-balls and pinpoint passes then it is Ibrahimovic, who is a handily giant target to pick out.
It looks likely Carrick will be saved for big games now, so Arsenal could be a shout at 11/2 to be when Zlatan next scores.
Don’t force ageing Ibrahimovic to be the talisman
Finally, it looks as though Man Utd and Mourinho made a mistake in making Ibra their big summer striker statement signing.
But, that is unlikely to be rectified in the January transfer window. At age 35, Zlatan should have been the icing on the cake not the icon.
If it was considered that neither Martial or Rashford should lead the line and, with Rooney waning, another forward should have been added to ease the burden.
Moving forward, Ibrahimovic should not be the big face of the club or the attacking talisman, but a wily veteran used for his poaching ability and experience. United will soon need to find a star man, as putting all your eggs in a basket containing two strikers in their 30s will not cut the PL mustard.
Ibrahimovic scorer special odds
Fenerbahce (EL), November 3rd 15/8
Swansea (PL), November 6th 15/8
Arsenal (PL), November 19th 11/2
Feyenoord (EL), November 24th 6/1
West Ham (PL), November 27th 10/1
West Ham (EFL Cup), November 30th 16/1
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