Jose Mourinho stated before Christmas that Zlatan Ibrahimovic would remain a Manchester United player next season and reports this week claim he could stay even longer.
Multiple outlets have suggested the Swedish superstar could extend his stay onto the end of the 2018/19 season.
We review the pros and cons of such a risky move.
Pro: He could keep scoring
When he arrived at Old Trafford, plenty of analysts and fans alike doubted the ageing striker’s ability to cut it in the Premier League. He has been far from perfect, and there was a few months where, when he wasn’t scoring, it was almost impossible to defend his inclusion.
However, since he rediscovered his scoring touch, he’s done everything you could ask from a striker. Nineteen goals in twenty-six appearances speaks for itself. There’s not much to suggest he won’t continue in that vein next season and just maybe, the following campaign.
Con: He might not
The former PSG man will be 37 years old for much of the season after next. Although his game has never relied on searing pace, surely he couldn’t maintain the levels expected of a Manchester United player so long after his peak. The comparisons with Eric Cantona have been incessant in recent weeks. Will Ibra, like The King, end his career on Sir Matt Busby Way on a high, or risk marring what he’s done, a la one Wayne Rooney?
Pro: His influence
Ibrahimovic is undeniably one of the greatest strikers of his generation and has experienced phenomenal success over the course of his career. One of his crowning achievements could be helping Marcus Rashford follow suit. The lad from Wythenshawe has already proven he’s good enough and simply needs a guiding hand, something Rooney will never be.
Con: Will limit Rashford’s playing time
Rashford, still just 19, can surely accept playing second fiddle to a man of Ibrahimovic’s standing and may even do so next term. But then, surely it’s his time to shine. His chances have been too limited this season and his performances have suffered as a result. If Mourinho isn’t willing to start increasing the youngster’s playing time, he could stunt his development irreparably.
With Michael Carrick and Rooney set to leave the club sooner rather than later, United could quickly become a team largely devoid of experience. There’s little doubting the number nine brings that in spades. Even if his on-pitch influence wanes, his leadership off it could be vitally important.
Con: Mourinho will never drop him
Antoine Griezmann will almost certainly arrive at United before the start of the 2018/19 season and the Frenchman will not be happy to watch on from the bench as Zlatan toils. Add in Rashford, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard and there’s a lot of people competing for few enough spots. With the special relationship the Special One shares with his special striker, it’s difficult to foresee him excluding Ibrahimovic, regardless of performance.
Rory Murphy, Pundit Arena