Jamie Carragher explains why Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be vital for Manchester United this season

by Leo Nieboer

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher believes that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be a vital presence for Manchester United during the latter half of the season.

The big Swede, who claimed 27 goals last season, has been sidelined with knee ligament damage since April and signed a new one year deal with the club back in August.

When he’ll return, however, remains a mystery: his agent, Mino Raiola, noted he would return in January, while Mourinho has claimed he could play before then.

And Carragher, speaking earlier this week, has noted that Zlatan’s return will have an enormous galvanising effect.

“They have Lukaku there now who has gone a few games without a goal, so maybe they need Zlatan now – right now!” he said.

“He’s a fantastic player, character, I think we all love having him in the Premier League. His interview [with Thierry Henry on Sky Sports] was typical Zlatan. Very humble, very, very humble [laughs].

“I think the whole Premier League wants to see Zlatan back and I think, if he’s fit, he will find a way to get back into the team because he’s that good a player and that big a personality.”

Lukaku is indeed going through a dry patch: he has followed a run of 11 goals in ten games with no goals in six, and supporters have recognised a slight dip in his fluidity and dynamism on the ball ever since the international break.

But this happens. The only place where a striker scores every week is amateur mode on FIFA. Zlatan himself went through a dry patch at a similar time last year.

And while Jose Mourinho’s winning record is continuing, he will perhaps bemoan the fact that, at least for now, he doesn’t have a different option in the form of Zlatan to call on.

His presence engenders a wholesale shift in style, with more emphasis on firing the ball directly to his feet and going from there rather than using Lukaku’s legs to stretch defences. And there will be times later on this season when, as Mourinho finds himself trailing with 20 minutes left, the 36-year-old will be on hand to wake up any encounter.

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