Gary Neville has showered praise on Zlatan Ibrahimovic following Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Southampton in the League Cup final, noting that the Swede’s match-winning performance was illustrative of why Jose Mourinho bought him over the summer.
The 35-year-old sent Man United into the lead with a sumptuous free-kick after 19 minutes but watched on helplessly as Southampton fought back to restore a 2-2 lead.
And with Claude Puel’s side pouring forward, Zlatan broke the hearts of Saints supporters and sent United fans into a state of pure elation in the 87th minute, powering home an unstoppable header from close range.
Neville, speaking after the game, noted that such a monumental contribution was exactly why Mourinho signed him over the summer.
“Sometimes ego, arrogance, and confidence are disliked,” he said. “But sometimes people can pull it off – he certainly does. You saw his interview, he came here to win and he was winning.
“It was important when Jose Mourinho came to United that he had a player on the pitch who believed and thought the same as him – and he’s got one there.
“That’s why he brought him – he’s a serial winner, the manager, and so is Ibrahimovic.
“He’s won wherever he’s been and he carries personality and character on to the pitch.”
Cup finals notoriously refuse to obey the regular laws of nature, and today was another case in point. There is only so much speculation, stat-seeking and foresight you can really produce ahead of games like these.
When it comes down to it, and you’re just sitting there pensively, watching everything unfold, the idea of objectivity and tactics becomes somewhat redundant. In the furious heat of a cup final, the only thing that ends up mattering is the furious, all-embracing battle on the pitch, and nobody knows how to navigate such encounters better than Zlatan.