With the closing weeks of the Premier League summer transfer window coming closer and closer, there was a question on every Manchester United fans mind. The question on whether José Mourinho would sign his fourth player he had talked about since after winning the Europa League final.
Having a successful phase of signing all the players he had seemed to have wanted before and during the pre-season being; Victor Lindelöf, Romelu Lukaku, and Nemanja Matić, the team appears to be complete and fitting in all ways possible.
But what suggested to be just a rumor in latest weeks has hit the front pages as a familiar face comes back to Old Trafford.
With Ibrahimovic having played out his contract and departed at the end of the season, there was always hope and assumptions that he would resign, not wanting to leave business unfinished in the eyes of the Swedish legend.
Arguably being one of United’s best forward playing asset on the squad last season, scoring a total of 28 goals in all competitions and leading the pack by a mile, it was clear that his presence made a difference in Manchester and could not be replaced.
So with a fully equipped squad and calculated plans in Mourinho’s holster, it is evident that there will be different strategies and usages for Zlatan this time around.
In ways where he could be the secret component to winning games and bringing that experience and mentality to a team full of talent.
Here is how Manchester United could use Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a different approach than last season.
Comparing seasons and strategies
A factor we all have to take into consideration when looking at the resigning of Zlatan Ibrahimovic what his usage and playtime will be like this season and how it will differ from the last.
Last season, Ibrahimovic was brought in to be the main striker to a team that desperately needed a mature number 9 in the sense of skill and knowledge.
Much like his time at Paris Saint-Germain, where he became the focal point of the team’s success while his comparable counterpart, Edinson Cavani, suffered a small quantity due to the fact he played an unfamiliar position all season.
Which played a similar part in how Ibrahimovic came into United’s squad, driving Marcus Rashford to play a wider role as a winger, luckily adapting much quicker and more efficiently than Cavani did at PSG.
Not saying that created a negative effect in terms for United; Zlatan’s off the ball movement or great ability to drop down acting as a false 9, allowed Rashford to make explosive forward runs or cut-ins when needed.
Now this season, with the signing of Romelu Lukaku and having him already make an impressive presence in the club, there is a much different feel to Manchester United than there has been in recent times.
But of course, it never hurts to have multiple options or a hidden weapon in the squad.
Ibrahimovic: the rich man’s Giroud
A possible strategy in which Ibrahimovic could be used as, other than for depth and/or when Lukaku seems to be out of form, is when United need that game winning goal in the final period of a match.
Much like how Arsene Wenger uses Olivier Giroud, Zlatan could be brought in a game during the remaining 20-30 minutes of a match if United appear to be tied or down by a goal for a game winning chance.
For instance, in the image above is an opposing side playing with a low block (parking the bus) in a 4-4-2 example formation against an attacking Manchester United side.
As the opponents compact themselves, disallowing space, this is where Ibrahimovic could come of major use.
Much like he did last season, Zlatan would drop deep, pushing off defenders forcing them to follow his movement, which allowed the likes and speed of Rashford or Lingard to be used as a fulcrum for passing the ball. This forced the opposition to break their low blockages in the own final third which created space for Mourinho’s men.
With the dangerous striking of multiple talents in the United squad, space and open areas only act as an advantage for such and could be taken in the split second of an opportunity.
There is no doubt that Zlatan Ibrahimovic brings a boastful and lively presence to the Manchester United dressing room. Especially at a time where they needed it the most, being last season, he added a certain quality that had been lacking.
In a team full of youngsters or inexperienced top tier players, it is always important to have that veteran in the squad. Having Zlatan just as a figure for all the players to trust and look up to in all aspects of the game, both on and off the pitch, is extremely important for the team’s chemistry and success.
Bringing that winning mentality and confidence to all surrounding him could turn it into reality and help in the achievements the club and players have throughout the season and more to come.
With an amazing start to the Premier League campaign, it has still been in question as to whether José Mourinho should sign his fourth player of the transfer window. Now with him doing so in re-signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it doesn’t fully add to what United need as a club.
It is clear that Mourinho has a different outlook on this season as a whole, and this being his second season, success only seems to go hand in hand.
With plenty more games and European competition this year, it never hurts to have depth and weapons under your belt in order to produce a winning season and gain trophies.
What Zlatan Ibrahimovic brings to the squad is something that has been missing at Manchester United for quite some time, whether he becomes a major component on or off the pitch, it is clear his presence is needed and wanted at the club. And what this team can produce is something as amazing as a title winning campaign and more trophies for the cabinet.