Zlatan’s FA Cup winner against Blackburn on Sunday was his 24th goal of the season in all competitions since joining from some decent team in France. Not too shabby for a 35-year-old who many believed to be ‘too old’ for the Premier League. Paul Scholes, when interviewed, believes he shouldn’t be United’s main striker because of his age. I agree to some extent. What I really believe is that Zlatan is doing the job for this season, but it’ll be this season only. He and Rashford are the only true strikers in the first team, and that isn’t enough.
24 goals by February is a solid return for any striker, but it is the way he has managed to do it which strikes me as being significant. Performance wise, I don’t actually think he’s been very good. Take the Europa League match against St Etienne as an example; his touch was poor, his link up play was non-existent, he made two, maybe three runs in behind the defence, and scored three goals. An even better example was the 3-1 home win over Sunderland on Boxing Day. I spent a good 15 minutes ranting about Zlatan not working hard, not fitting the team and just playing so averagely. He scored one and got two assists that game. His performances haven’t been good enough to get 24 goals in my eyes, not by a long way, and it is a testament to him as a player to be able to get that return. With only two strikers in the first team, a lot rests on his shoulders and I think against the teams in the top 4, he will have to raise his overall performance rather than relying on a moment of brilliance. I must keep reminding myself, he’s one of the Premier League’s top scorers.
Perhaps the main reason Zlatan is at United over a younger world class striker is that he’s the best player in the world for Rashford to be learning from as he develops into United’s next number 9. Next season Zlatan will be 36 years old and if rumours are to be true, he’ll be contending with Griezmann for that spot. Zlatan won’t play every game next year but having him around the dressing room and in particular Rashford will be crucial in developing his immense talent into being a United star striker.
It dawned on me recently that although Zlatan’s style isn’t my cup of tea when it comes to centre forwards, he is a world class player and that class shows more often than not. He is proving that he can still do it at the highest level week in-week out and If he plays poorly and still scores at the rate he has been, then I’ll take that all day.