New King In Manchester is Zlatan

New King In Manchester is Zlatan

Zlatan Ibrahimovic described his time at Paris Saint-Germain as arriving like a king and leaving like a legend. In his Manchester United debut, played in his homeland of Sweden, he arrived as a legend and left like a king.Ibrahimovic’s goal, after less than 200 seconds in a United shirt, opened the scoring on the way to a 5-2 win for his team in Saturday’s friendly against Galatasaray, and the message it sent out was a powerful one. Although his age (34) has been questioned as a hindrance, he gave a timely reminder of his reading of the game, technical prowess and supreme self-confidence. He leapt and, with both feet in the air, unleashed a scissor kick, connecting with his right foot to score.Manager Jose Mourinho’s reaction summarised the mood around the ground, as he puffed out his cheeks and slapped his hands together. Ibrahimovic, though, was less carried away.He just stood up and raised his hands to high-five his teammates and enjoy the embraces. This moment must have felt like a routine act for him. It might not have been the cleanest strike, but the athleticism was eye-catching.Ibrahimovic had talked himself up so much in the build-up, speaking about how eagerly anticipated his debut was in Sweden, and many players might have felt under pressure to deliver. There were no signs of that.The excitement about his arrival had been apparent long before he showed his face in Gothenburg. A billboard marketing the game outside the Ullevi stadium showed him smiling at the front of the poster. Hours before kickoff, plenty of Swedes strolled around the largecoastal city wearing United shirts with “Ibrahimovic 9” emblazoned on their backs.Before the game kicked off, young fans hung off the side of the stand, next to the tunnel, waiting to catch a glimpse of their idol. Mobile phones in hand, they screamed for “Zlatan.” When he jogged out, along with his other United teammates, the noise level rose and the affection was palpable.The game was billed as a super match and, with the Superman theme tune blaring out of the public address system as the teams lined up, it felt like a time for a show of super heroism. Ibrahimovic did not take long to deliver, and by half-time, he had been taken off after a promising workout in the advanced forward role in a 4-2-3-1, having only started training with his new teammates that week.As he stepped out to take his place on the bench in the second half, wearing a red United tracksuit top, he was smiling and jovial. There was more animation from him, even just on the bench, particularly when Marcus Rashford produced a piercing, skilled run that drew a penalty, which Wayne Rooney scored from. Ibrahimovic’s eyes told the story. He seemed to be taken aback by what he saw from the teenage Englishman. Their working relationship will be an intriguing subplot this season, withRashford speaking after the gameabout how much he is looking forward to learning from the veteran.Even the older heads such as Rooney, who started in the No. 10 role, appear excited. The England captain stopped to speak to the handful of journalists from the U.K. who had travelled over for the game and gushed about Ibrahimovic. There was a little laugh from Rooney when he was first asked about the Swede, being told, “It didn’t take long for Zlatanto make his mark, did it?” Rooney was in full agreement and went on to use the word “aura” to describe Ibrahimovic’s presence. He also stated that he expects to see “many more” moments like the scissor kick.When Ibrahimovic stepped out, media from all over the world — cameras and microphones in hand — swarmed toward him, creating a scrum. It was like iron filings being drawn to a magnet. The Swede was happy to stop and speak briefly, pointing out that something special is happening at the club he has joined. When the former PSG striker stepped out of the building toward the United bus, he took the time to pose for selfies with fans and sign autographs for children.Picking up the European papers the following morning showed the impact he had made, with the U.K. press putting aesthetically pleasing pictures of the goal on front pages. French publication L’Equipe summarised his return to Sweden for his Manchester United debut nicely. “Zlatan est deja chez lui” it read: “Zlatan is already at home.” It will certainly feel that way when he arrives at Old Trafford. A new king — whatever Eric Cantona thinks — is in town.


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