Jonny Evans names Zlatan Ibrahimovic as his hardest opponent

by Leo Nieboer

Former Manchester United defender Jonny Evans has highlighted Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the most difficult opponent he has faced during his career.

The Northern-Irishman recently came up against Zlatan at West Bromwich Albion during a 2-0 loss to Jose Mourinho’s men back in December 2016 that saw the Swede claim both goals.

Ibrahimovic’s Old Trafford career remains in limbo, however, after the 35-year-old suffered a knee ligament injury against Anderlecht that will keep him on the sidelines for some time.

And Evans, when asked about some of his toughest opponents, named the big Swede before anybody else.

“I came up against Zlatan Ibrahimovic when we (Northern Ireland) played Sweden,” he said.

“He left one on me. I cleared the ball and he left his studs up – I thought I would try and make the most of it. He came over and was all like: ‘Get up, bitch.’ I thought I’d better get up!”

“I remember playing against him for Manchester United. I just remember the strength he had – he could put one arm out and hold me off – and I could see the skill he had.”

Many have pondered whether Man United could actually benefit from Zlatan’s injury over the next few weeks, with Marcus Rashford providing a more direct, defence-stretching threat at No.9 in games that will demand ruthlessness going forward.

But this anecdote serves as a reminder of that intangible menace brought to the side by the 35-year-old. Rashford may tire you out over 90 minutes with his raw energy, but Zlatan has the capacity to leave you both physically and mentally depleted. He has a rare capacity to shift the power balance between himself and an opponent completely in his direction, almost like a form of mind control. “You will submit to Zlatan, bitch.”

This kind of influence is irreplaceable, and supporters will just hope his absence doesn’t cost their side a place in the Champions League next season.

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