Monday 27 February 2017

Ibra again takes centre stage as United's inspirational figurehead

United overcame a spirited Southampton side in the EFL Cup final despite a largely disappointing performance which was rescued by two goal inspiration Zlatan.

Jose Mourinho and the 35-year-old Swede are now the two central figures taking United forward.

Jose's move to bring Ibra to Old Trafford on a free transfer from PSG - surely the best such move the Premier League has ever seen - was strategic and wise.

One of Jose's first moves after his appointment was to summon the Swedish veteran to Manchester despite the questions and grumblings about his age and lack of pace.

Jose knew United needed an inspirational talisman to set the standard for a disillusioned squad increasingly accustomed to frequent upheaval and instability. 

Zlatan is a personality of equal stature and confidence, had a lot to prove having never played in England and is the world class match-winner we'd been crying out for.

Everything Ibra does have echoes of "The King" Eric Cantona - his enigmatic and languid style, his charismatic persona and his understated influence on the younger members of the squad.

He scored with a header on his United debut at Wembley against Leicester back in August and again came up with the goods when we needed it most. 
Once again, this was his playground, his platform, his show.

How we needed Ibrahimovic desperately on Sunday because for long periods United were ragged, disorganised and on the back foot against a vibrant and energetic Southampton side. 

He once again proved indispensable and made the decisive contribution to clinch a cup final that United did not deserve to win. 

Thoroughly unconvincing we may have been, but Mourinho teams find a way to get the job done and so it proved as Ibra powered home an 87th-minute header. 

He had earlier put United in front, albeit undeservedly, and then capped off another man of the match display with his late winner to seal a remarkable 32nd trophy of his career. 

If this EFL Cup win is to be the catalyst for another period of success at Old Trafford, Ibrahimovic's continued presence will be essential. 

United will never again be the dominant, trophy-winning juggernaut that we were under Sir Alex, no side will ever do that again in today's ever-evolving world of professional football.  

But, if we're to get anywhere near that status again, Ibra is the man integral to Jose's plans, despite being in the twilight of his illustrious career. 

With United still in contention for a possible cup treble, Ibra continues to be this side's inspirational figurehead and leader of the attack.

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