Paul Merson: Zlatan Ibrahimovic is no longer world-class

by Leo Nieboer


Former Arsenal winger Paul Merson believes Zlatan Ibrahimovic is no longer a world-class striker at Manchester United.

The Swede, who joined Man United back in July, has netted six goals in a red shirt, but hasn’t found the net in six games.

His first-half display against Manchester City in the League Cup led to many supporters expressing their frustration with the Swede – who did, to his credit, respond with an excellent second-half performance.

Merson, speaking earlier this week, denied the idea of Ibrahimovic being a world-class striker.

“Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a world-class striker but he’s not anymore. He is 35 and playing in the hardest league in the world so as the season goes on, I can’t see him getting better,” he said.

“Jose Mourinho will obviously stick with him despite his recent struggles and he should get a few opportunities against Burnley, who haven’t looked up to scratch away from Turf Moor.”

The true hallmark of a world-class player is, I believe, an ability to make a game-changing contribution whilst radically underperforming on an individual level. And Ibrahimovic did just that against Pep Guardiola’s side.

With 54 minutes on the clock, the Swede had done next to nothing of note – blasting free-kicks wide, mis-hitting passes and, for some reason, always slipping over. But then, almost out of nowhere, came the moment of strictly Zlatan-esque magic: a tactical piece of nudging to brush off Nicolas Otamendi, some excellent control, and then perfectly delivered pass to set-up Juan Mata‘s goal.

It was a reminder to all United fans that, even during a scoring drought, Zlatan can remain effective.

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