Thursday 22 March 2018

Zlat's your lot: Ibra's LA adventure after Old Trafford exit

Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks set to call time on his decorated and illustrious career in the gltiz and glamour of LA after his United contract was ended early. Upon arrival as Jose's second signing in 2016, he initially signed a one year deal but then extended his stay after an impressive recovery from a potentially career ending knee injury. But the mercurial Swede has played his last game in the Red of United, having struggled to regain fitness in an injury plagured campaign in which he has made only seven appearances. His last game came back on Boxing Day against Burnley, and since then he's failed to regain the fitness required to return to action. The move to Los Angeles and LA Galaxy - former club of United legend David Beckham - will surely be his last hurrah until the curtain comes down on the career of one of the great strikers of the modern era.

Despite his status as a centre-forward of world renown, Zlatan arrived for his first taste of English football surrounded by doubts over his ability to adapt to the pace and intensity of the Premier League.  Those questions were emphatically answered during his sole campaign as the Reds talismanic figurehead, during which he scored 28 goals in 42 appearances, an extraordinary return for a 36-year-old on his debut season in the top flight. The prospect of Ibra becoming United's first 30-goal striker since Robin van Persie looked a matter of certainty, until that painful blow against Anderlecht in the quarter finals scuppered those ambitions and  robbed Zlatan of a fairytale homecoming in the Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm. The Reds lifted the trophy without the Swede in one of the most successful seasons in our history, but there remained a sense of unfinished business. It's a shame he never got the proper send-off he truly deserved.

Having won the league title at previous clubs Ajax, Inter, Barcelona, Milan and PSG, hopes were high that Ibra would be the man to spearhead United's charge for another league title. Things did not work out like that and English football's biggest domestic prize remained out of reach, but Zlatan still more than made his mark when it mattered as his two-goal salvo saw us win the EFL Cup against Southampton at Wembley - a tie in which he headed the late winner after Saints had recovered from 0-2 down. 

That towering, inch-perfect header, from Ander Herrera's cross three minutes from time, came in a cup final that United were second best in, but again demonstrated the iconic striker's penchant for the big occasion. As he had done so many times before, Zlatan was United's go-to guy when the team were in need of inspiration. Despite the Reds indifferent league season as a collective, as we stuttered and spluttered to a disappointing sixth placed finish, the big man provided goals, drama and subplots aplenty. He started as he would go with a Wembley winner in the Community Shield vs Leicester,  there was his first and only Reds hat-trick against Saint Etienne to set us on our way to glory and the decisive intervention in our come-from-behind victory at Blackburn in the FA Cup. 

Thanks for the memories, Zlatan and good luck Stateside.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he is a Swedish hero.
On a free from PSG he cost United zero.
Six foot five, hard as f**k, he gets the Reds excited
Stick Man City up your a**e cause' we are Man United! 

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