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Manchester United: What Zlatan’s return means for José Mourinho’s men

The 35-year-old Swede is making a return to Manchester to join up with Mourinho's men who have made an incredible start to the season.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to Manchester United has been confirmed, only months after departing the club at the end of last season.

The Swede, who turns 36 in October, scored 17 Premier League goals last season for Jose Mourinho’s side. He also netted five in Europe on their road to winning the Europa League. Yet it was in April when Zlatan’s season ended.

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The Swede suffered a season-ending knee injury, which subsequently led to his departure from Manchester. However, despite the absence and the outlay Manchester United put down to sign Romelu Lukaku from Everton, Zlatan has signed a new one-year contract with the club.

No-one can doubt Zlatan.

Does he fit tactically?

Mourinho has started using a 4-2-3-1 formation, winning both games 4-0. In their second match against Swansea, their line up was De Gea in goal, Antonio Valencia at right-back, Eric Bailey and Phil Jones at centre-back with Daley Blind at left-back.

In a deep midfield role, he played Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic, with Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford playing as attacking midfielders and Lukaku leading the line.

Though the former Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Ajax, Inter and AC Milan striker has a proven goal record, having scored goals in all of Europe’s top leagues including the La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and the Dutch Eredivisie, as well as the Premier League, it is unclear where Zlatan could fit into this starting side.

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Undoubtedly, his best position is when he is the focal point of attack, however, it is unlikely that Lukaku will be replaced, especially in his current form. The £75m man has scored three Premier League goals in the opening two games for his new club and will want to continue his momentum by being the undoubted main man. Lukaku is a confidence player and any rotation would likely stunt the Belgian’s hot run of form.

Ibra does not have the pace, nor the work rate to play behind Lukaku as an attacking midfielder. Furthermore, with the performances that Mkhitaryan has contributed so far this season – four assists in two games –  it is doubtful that he will replace the Armenian, who is currently playing just behind Lukaku.

Could we see a formation switch?

If Mourinho is keen to start his former Inter Milan colleague, then he may switch to a 3-5-2 formation to accommodate the centre forward.  The Portuguese manager experimented with the shape during pre-season and it would mean that he could play both Ibrahimovic and Lukaku as a front pair.

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However, that would mean Mourinho would have to drop one of his offensive midfielders to accommodate the Swede and he may have to drop another, either Rashford, Mata, Martial or Mkhitaryan, in order to bring in a third centre-back, which would most likely be Victor Lindelöf so that Blind could move out to the left wing-back position.

There is no doubt the Zlatan brings bags of experience, a strong winning mentality and above all else, goals. Yet, with the start Manchester United have had so far this season, Mourinho will not want to upset his side and will likely use Ibra off of the bench unless Lukaku picks up an injury.

Either way, we’re delighted to have him back.

Zlatan's 29 Manchester United goals

  1. Is Zlatan a good re-signing for Manchester United?

    1. Yes, he's a great asset to have
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Manchester United: What Zlatan’s return means for José Mourinho’s men

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