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Zlatan Ibrahimovic: A Hero That Old Trafford Longed Since Eric Cantona

Such has been Ibra’s impact that Manchester United’s most decorated player — Ryan Giggs — was forced to compare him to former United captain Eric Cantona.

Pratik Sagar | News18 Sports

Updated:February 21, 2017, 4:57 PM IST
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: A Hero That Old Trafford Longed Since Eric Cantona
Zlatan Ibrahimovic. (Getty Images)

35-year-old Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic has become a household name for his spectacular goal-scoring record across Europe over the past decade and a half. After winning multiple trophies in Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France, Zlatan has firmly set his sights on going out on a high with Manchester United in England.

Since joining the ‘Mourinho Revolution’ at Old Trafford in the summer of 2016 on free transfer, the big Swede has hit the ground running and he has already registered 24 goals to his name in all competitions. In the process, Zlatan has also become the oldest player in the history of Premier League to cross the 15-goal mark.

"People that know me know that I play in many clubs and I try to do my best. Wherever I went I won, so I am like Indiana Jones," said Ibrahimovic recently after netting a hat-trick against St. Etienne in the Europa League.

In Manchester United’s topsy-turvy season, the one constant has been Zlatan’s goals. Without his goals, the Old Trafford outfit would not have been fighting on all four fronts — Premier League, Europa League, FA Cup and League Cup — as the second highest goal-scorer for the Red Devils is Juan Mata with just nine strikes.

Such has been Ibra’s impact that Manchester United’s most decorated player — Ryan Giggs — was forced to compare him to former United captain Eric Cantona.

"I think there's similarities (between Ibrahimovic and Cantona) because of that confidence they have in their own ability and the goals that they have scored," Ryan Giggs was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

“It didn't faze Eric or Ibrahimovic coming to United and being the No 1 player. Even when they are playing well and getting all the adoration, they don't get carried away,” said Giggs.

The reason why Cantona is so highly regarded at United is because the Frenchman had an instant impact at Old Trafford. After signing from Leeds in 1992, Cantona ended Manchester United's 26-year-old Premier League trophy drought in 1993, with his goals and unique style of play.

"He (Cantona) illuminated Old Trafford. The place was a frenzy every time he touched the ball," legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson once famously said about his former number seven.

Zlatan is also having a similar sort of impact at a time when the United faithful were desperately looking for a savior. Since Alex Ferguson's retirement, Manchester United first struggled to find feet under David Moyes and with Louis Van Gaal as boss, the Devils lost the ability to scare their opponents out of the match.

While taking up the mantle to bring the glory days back at Old Trafford, Mourinho knew he needed a character, to revive a falling empire and thus came calling the biggest ego in world football, which he justifies by bulging the net at an impressive rate.

In his last five seasons, Zlatan has scored 30 or more goals in every campaign while playing in Italy (Milan) and France (PSG). Also since the beginning of last season, Zlatan has out-scored the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. With 50 goals for PSG in 2015/16 and 24 for United so far, the big Swede is now ahead of both his illustrious rivals (Messi – 73 and Ronaldo - 72).

Both Zlatan and Jose are into their first season in Manchester and it is still very early to judge their impact at Manchester United. But for Mourinho to succeed at the Old Trafford, the Portuguese will be hoping Ibra continues to have a similar sort of impact as Cantona did for Sir Alex. But before that, its important for Manchester United and its fans that Zlatan signs a contract extension and is there for another season.

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| Edited by: Pratik Sagar
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