Ibrahimovic – A Striker for the Ages
While West Ham’s want-away attacker Dimitri Payet is the perfect example of how easy it is to go from hero to villain, the reverse is true of Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Never has the phrase 'form is temporary, class is permanent' been truer than in the case of the Swedish star.
Barely three months ago, Guardian writer Jamie Jackson accused Ibrahimovic’s goal drought – at the time of writing, he’d gone five weeks without scoring – of costing United any hope they had of winning the title, supported by odds on sportsbet, and went on to compare him unfavourably to City’s Sergio Aguero, Arsenal front man Alexis Sánchez and Liverpool’s Firmino.
Fast-forward to the present day and Jackson might have had a change of heart. While Aguero has cut a disconsolate figure at the Etihad, Sanchez is in the midst of contract impasse and Firmino has only found the back of the net seven times in 24 appearances and was charged with drink-driving, the pony-tailed one has been banging the goals in for fun once again.
It is hard to fathom out why anyone questioned Ibrahimovic in the first place, to be honest; he has consistently been a class apart in front of goal wherever he has played and, given his physical presence, it was ridiculous to suggest that his spell in the Premier League would be anything other than a resounding success.
If there were any doubters, he seems to have been won them around. The PFA Fans’ Premier League Player of the Month award has gone to the man from Malmo, beating the likes of Adam Lallana and Cesar Azpilicueta.
Nearly 64,000 votes were cast in the poll, which was held on the Sky Sports website and apps, with Ibrahimovic claiming victory with 24,092 votes.
The 35-year-old has been a model professional and, according to Marcus Rashford, a man displaced to accommodate the big Swede, he has been a source of much support to the young strikers at United.
"For the young players to see his character and the way he approaches every game is invaluable," he told www.skysports.com. "Some players can't bring that when they move clubs. We have to try to learn from him while he is here and take what we can from his game."
Ibrahimovic won League titles with Ajax, Juventus, Barcelona, both Milan clubs and Paris St Germain, and while adding the Premier League title may be beyond him this season – United are 12 points off the pace in sixth – without his goals, they would probably be stuck in mid-table mediocrity.
His late headed goal rescued a point against Liverpool last weekend and was his sixth in the last seven games, and he now has 14 for the season overall, the same as Sanchez and unsettled Chelsea star Diego Costa.
Winning the Golden Boot would be the perfect end to a season when, for the first time in a long time, his ability has been doubted. Never short of words, Ibrahimovic proudly declared: “I wanted to come when everyone thought I was over [the hill]. I'm super-happy and I feel good.”