Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Manchester United Need to Overcome their Reliance on Ibrahimovic

Manchester United’s season certainly hasn’t gone as planned. For all the money spent in last summer’s transfer window, the one player they signed on a free transfer, has been their best player thus far. As United look to secure a top-four finish this term, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the man they've been turning to for a large chunk of their goals.

Despite being in the twilight of his career, Zlatan Ibrahimovic draws parallels to Eric Cantona at Manchester United. The Swede’s effect at Old Trafford has been tremendous having found the back of the net on 15 occasions for the Red Devils in the Premier League this term.

Much of United’s supporters were skeptical about Ibrahimovic before he arrived at the club.

He had lit up the Ligue 1 with sensational performances in previous seasons, but most assumed that he would not be able to do the same in the Premier League due to the disparity in quality that supposedly exists between the English top flight and its French counterpart.

It’s perceived as normal for supporters of Premier League clubs to doubt players coming into the English top flight from other divisions in Europe due to the Premier League's competitiveness.

Ibrahimovic’s lackluster showings at Euro 2016 did little to convince United supporters that he’d be their leading man, but the 35-year-old’s penchant for doing the seemingly impossible has shone through, perhaps all too well, as the Red Devils now appear to be over-reliant on him.

Ibrahimovic has gone down in Premier League folklore as the oldest player to bag 15 goals in a single campaign, which is an impressive tally at this stage of the season for a striker of any age.

While United now boast of a top marksman spearheading their attack, their reliance on his services has become somewhat unhealthy causing him to be their main outlet for goals.

At times this term, when he’s failed to score, United have invariably failed to win. Last Weekend’s game against the Cherries is solid proof of that.

The Swedish striker squandered a number of decent goalscoring opportunities including a penalty as United were held to a 1-1 draw by a lowly Bournemouth side.

The likes of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have been denied ample opportunities to blossom up front as they’ve been relegated to both the flanks and the bench.

United’s reliance on Ibrahimovic up front appears to have also contributed to their relatively poor league campaign as they’ve been glued to 6th place on the league table for many months now.

The Swedish striker’s goal drought in October and November saw United stagnate in the league standings, and that barren spell continues to haunt the Red Devils as they've found it hard to move up from 6th place.

While PSG were reliant on Ibrahimovic for much of the last term, the likes of Edinson Cavani and Lucas Moura still managed to chip in with a large chunk of goals with the former notching 19 league goals and the latter finding the back of the net on 9 occasions.

That has not been the case at Manchester United this season. Ibrahimovic leads the scoring charts with 15 goals but Juan Mata remains United’s second highest goalscorer in the league this season with just 6 goals.

Martial and Mkhitaryan have both managed only three goals. That just goes to show how dependent the Red Devils are on Ibrahimovic.

He scored the goals that won United the EFL Cup against Southampton, without him on the pitch, Mourinho’s side may have succumbed to defeat.

United play Chelsea in the FA Cup Quarter Final on Monday, but they’ll be without their star striker following an incident against Bournemouth that led to Ibrahimovic being handed a three-match ban by the FA.

In light of that, Mourinho will have to deploy either Martial, Rashford or Rooney up front, a trio that has found appearances hard to come by due to Ibrahimovic’s presence on the side.

While Rooney’s prolonged absence from the team is quite understandable, Martial and Rooney surely deserves more playing time than they’ve gotten thus far.

The young duo impressed under Louis Van Gaal last season, but they’ve failed to win Jose Mourinho’s trust this term.

With Ibrahimovic unavailable for the crunch clash against Chelsea next week, it will be interesting to see how Jose Mourinho sets his side up to suit the playing style of whoever he opts to spearhead United’s attack at Stamford Bridge.

About the Author Phillip Ekuwem

Phillip is a football writer with an immense love and passion for the beautiful game. He’s well versed in European football as he enjoys watching the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga and the Serie A.

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