Do Manchester United still need Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on December 26, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on December 26, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images) /

Manchester United recently announced that they have re-signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a new contract for the new season, but the question is – do the Red Devils still need him?

Everybody who follows football knows exactly who Zlatan Ibrahimovic is. The 6’5 Swedish striker is one of the biggest personalities in the game, a man who has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world in Ajax; Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain and has been one of the best strikers in the world for the last decade.

Last year, his contract at PSG expired and he joined Manchester United on a free contract in which was considered to be a coup for United and Jose Mourinho as it appeared that the club were finally able to replace the goal scoring exploits of Robin Van Persie with Ibrahimovic, despite the latter joining the club at thirty-five years of age.

There were many doubts over the signing of Ibrahimovic at the time with many believing that Ibrahimovic was too old to play for a team that would be challenging for the top four spots to qualify for the Champions League, that his goal scoring record was padded through what was falsely perceived to be playing in a weaker league in France among others.

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But Ibrahimovic quickly dispelled all of these doubts, scoring a phenomenal twenty-eight goals in his debut season at Old Trafford – including scoring two goals in the EFL Cup final against Southampton and being United’s highest goalscorer in the season by a wide margin.

There can be arguments that Ibrahimovic wasn’t always United’s best player or the most consistent player throughout the season, a season that was defined by missing several ‘easy’ chances and featuring a few poor displays where his lack of pace stunted United in transitions but there can be no doubt that Manchester United would have been a much poorer side without the Swede and had been nowhere near as successful last season –winning both the EFL Cup and the Europa League- without him prior to his season-ending injury towards the end of the season.

Once again, with United resigning Ibrahimovic to a contract this summer to extend his stay for one more year but once again, there are questions over whether or not Man United should have signed Ibrahimovic once again. Many believe that with United signing Romelu Lukaku for £75 million this summer, that the Belgium should be the one that is leading the line and he will be expected to replace the twenty-eight goals scored by Ibrahimovic which he mostly can do.

However, with the presence of Ibrahimovic looming over him, will he be resigned to the bench in favour of Ibrahimovic? Surely the two cannot be expected to play together, as playing with two legitimate centre-forwards is not something that José Mourinho has ever been known for nor is it expected that Ibrahimovic has signed with United again to take part on the bench. His signing also further impacts any chances of Marcus Rashford getting any chances to play up front, a position in which many feel is his best position and one that he should be playing in the future seasons ahead.

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The other big issue is – United’s attack seems to be much better and much more fluid Lukaku playing up front as opposed to Ibrahimovic. Lukaku is able to dribble past players with exploding speed and strength, he’s able to muscle any opposing defenders away from him, his hold-up play is nowhere near as bad as many would have you believe and he compliments the attack behind him very well. United are able to transition into counter attacks faster, they’re able to mix up their style of play and their attacks without being one-dimensional which was a common feature for United for the last few seasons.

Manchester United do need Ibrahimovic, any club in the world would be happy to sign him despite his age and the serious injuries that he is coming off. Above all else, he has shown that he is still capable of playing at the highest level but the biggest reason for why United still needed Ibrahimovic is for the simple fact that he provides another option; a world-class option for Mourinho to choose from when he needs too.

Ibrahimovic is not going to come in and immediately displace Lukaku from the team – for one, he’s still recovering from an ACL and an MCL injury and will likely still be injured until the end of the year while it will still take him a while longer after that to even become match fit.

By the time that Ibrahimovic can be finally match fit, we’ll be heading into the most important part of the season where more games will be piling up and Jose Mourinho will know from last season that United need squad depth to allow him to rotate him and to avoid injuries. Ibrahimovic will know himself that he will not be the main player of the team like last season, and that his role will not be as vital.

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But if United are looking for a goal, there are few scarier prospects than bringing a fresh Zlatan Ibrahimovic off the bench and if United want to win the league this season, in what is shaping up to be the most competitive season ever, they will need options like Ibrahimovic coming off the bench for them or the ability to play Lukaku or Ibrahimovic given who they are playing, only a fool would not want Ibrahimovic.