Former Newcastle United striker Alan Shearer has insisted that Manchester United must keep Zlatan Ibrahimovic for next season.
It was confirmed earlier on in the season that Jose Mourinho was willing to offer the Swede, who has 24 goals this season, a one-year extension to his existing contract.
However, it was later reported that Zlatan would only remain at Old Trafford for another year if Man United qualified for the Champions League.
And Shearer, speaking earlier this week, made it clear that keeping the 35-year-old at United for another year was vital.
“Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been Manchester United’s player of the season so far, and his goals and sheer presence make him the man they would miss the most right now,” he said.
“He is 35 and cannot go on forever but United would be crazy not to try to keep the Swedish striker for another season because he has shown he still has such a lot to offer.
“As well as his 24 goals in 37 games for United, a big part of Ibrahimovic’s impact is the effect he has had on his team-mates.
“His influence has been compared with that of Old Trafford legend Eric Cantona – and I can understand why.
“We know Ibrahimovic has got fantastic individual ability, but his charisma and the way he carries himself has seen him become the team’s talisman.
“They can learn some things from him on the pitch during games, of course, but working with him every day and seeing his attitude in training and the dressing room will be invaluable experience for them.
“That is another reason for United to keep him, although even if he does stay I am pretty certain they will still go for a big-hitter in the summer to either play with him up front, or compete for his place.”
The first season under Louis van Gaal was viewed by most as a transitional period – a necessary stepping stone to something better in the future. This was mainly because the Dutchman labelled the opening stages of his time at Old Trafford as a ‘process’ – process, process, process. It’s a process, people, calm down.
Mourinho has refused to coin such terminology, but the same rule applies to the 54-year-old: this year is still something of a learning process; next season, however, will be the time for United to demonstrate their full worth, and one suspects that Zlatan would want to play a key role in what promises to be a exhilarating campaign.