Jose Mourinho has explained why Manchester United needed the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic ahead of the 2016/17 season, noting that the side that stumbled to fifth under Louis van Gaal last season lacked big personalities in the dressing room.
Zlatan, who arrived over the summer on a one year deal, has claimed 26 goals under the Portuguese’s tutelage so far this season.
And Mourinho, speaking earlier this week, was quick to note the importance of Zlatan’s overall demeanour when it comes to engendering the appropriate mindset going forward at Old Trafford.
“Manchester United no longer has the super personalities of the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes or Roy Keane, there is Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick, who are the last faces of this generation, and there is a new group of players that has to adapt,” Mourinho said.
“That’s why it was important for me to get Zlatan. In this team he had, without being English, without knowing the culture of the club, the personality and the profile to be more.”
You could tell, almost from day one, that Zlatan had a better understanding of what playing for United meant – of what was demanded by the badge – than players that had been at the club for two or three seasons.
The exodus of the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs during the post-Fergie era left supporters with a group of players – whilst undoubtedly talented – lacking that intangible aura of grandeur responsible for so much success in the past.
This is why Zlatan has been such a crucial influence this season, and indeed why his whereabouts next season could determine how United move forward under Mourinho: he demands nothing but the best, always striving for not just big wins but big, relentlessly powerful performances to go with them, and supporters will hope that such an approach continues to rub off on the rest of the side.