The lion is back! For much of last season, it looked like nothing in the world was a challenge too difficult for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to face.
In the years gone by of his glittering career, he has conquered the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France, and with 28 goals in all competitions for Manchester United last season, England looked set to be added to that list. That was until injury struck.
Playing in the Red Devils’ quarter-final tie with Anderlecht in the Europa League, Ibra jumped for an aerial ball but landed awkwardly. You wouldn’t have known just how bad the injury really was judging by his reaction, as he somehow managed to find the strength to walk off the pitch.
For any other 36-year-old in professional sport, tearing your anterior cruciate ligament would mean the end of your career. But not in this case, and that’s what makes Ibra, Ibra.
He isn’t just any ordinary professional, and his incredible physique and mental strength has helped him make a remarkable comeback well ahead of schedule, and from an injury many feared would spell the end of his days as a footballer, or at least his time at the highest level of the game.
However, he has defied all expectations, and is now back to training with the rest of United’s first-team squad. The issue, though, is that United splashed big money on signing Romelu Lukaku in the summer, as Ibra’s future in the game remained unclear.
His return beckons the question of how Mourinho will integrate the Swede back into his squad. Therefore, we now take a look at the 3 possible ways in which the Red Devilss can line up with Ibrahimovic:
Mourinho has chosen to go with this formation on a number of occasions this season, with Romelu Lukaku’s arrival from Everton in the summer providing United with the perfect focal point in Ibrahimovic’s absence.
Now that the legendary Swede is back, we may see Mourinho frequently rotate the 36-year-old and Lukaku in order to keep both of them fresh and fatigue free, especially during the Christmas period where fixtures – and injuries as a result – tend to pile up.
Ibra’s ability to bully defenders and make space for himself, coupled with the pace of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial running down the wings, could be the perfect gameplan to give any opposition sleepless nights.
Similar to the 4-3-3, but with a slight twist. With two mammoth strikers with incredible physical presence at his disposal, Mourinho may considering pairing them together up front, with either Juan Mata or Henrikh Mkhitaryan operating just behind them to feed them the ball and create chances.
However, there isn’t enough width in this formation, and it may see Rashford and Martial suffer as a result, so the United boss is unlikely to use this unless he is desperately short of options in wider positions.
With Wayne Rooney’s departure to Everton in the summer, the number 10 shirt was up for grabs, and Ibra jumped at the chance to inherit the legendary squad number.
In a recent interview, he explained that he has always felt like a no. 10, and feels like the shirt is made for him. However, his switch from the no. 9 could be seen as something more rather than just personal preference.
Despite being used as a focal point for much of his career, Zlatan has hinted at the possibility of him playing a more creative role just behind the main striker this season.
With Lukaku practically undroppable unless he is in serious need of rest, Ibrahimovic may be forced to spend a lot of time warming the bench unless he adjusts himself to the new scenario his comeback has brought him into.
In such a case, this could be the perfect formation to fit Ibrahimovic and Lukaku in the same starting XI without worrying about either of them feeling congested by a lack of space.
Manchester United fan, Wayne Rooney is his role model. Passionate writer who has written for several sites in the past. He’s also an aspiring pianist and creates background music for BlameFootball’s Youtube channel.