Phil Jones explains why Zlatan Ibrahimovic is so important to Manchester United

by Leo Nieboer

Phil Jones has explained why Zlatan Ibrahimovic is so important at Manchester United, pointing towards the power and control he offers when holding up the ball.

The 35-year-old boasts a superb record of 11 goals in his last ten games, with 17 goals to his name in total (already matching the total Anthony Martial managed last season as Man United’s top scorer).

Ibrahimovic could make history against Middlesbrough on Saturday, needing just two goals to usurp Lionel Messi as 2016’s top scorer.

Jones, speaking earlier this week, was full of praise for the added muscle brought by the big Swede.

“He’s a handful,” he said. “He’s a big, strong man and he knows where the back of the net is.

“He’s got great feet and his link-up play, the way he brings others into play, is superb.

“He gives you that outlet when you are under pressure. Obviously we don’t want to keep knocking the ball long in games, but if you have to, then he’s always there to receive it and he makes life very difficult for defenders.

“He’s a big focal point for our team.”

Spare a though for poor Jones, who has to face Zlatan in training every week. This is a man capable of much more than a glut of goals: he can leave you physically depleted, bruised and sapped of confidence after a 90 minute tussle.

His sheer stature and aggression will eventually wear you down, perhaps to the point where you lose track of the 35-year-old, somehow still running hard and with purpose after 85 minutes.

Zlatan has always been an explosive figure, capable of blasting his opponent out of the water with one moment of brilliance, but it is often ignored that the Swede can prevail with a death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach as well. “A handful”, you sense, is a something of an understatement.

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