Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Is the Big Swede Replaceable?

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at Stadium of Light on April 9, 2017 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at Stadium of Light on April 9, 2017 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images) /
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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – APRIL 20: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United goes down injured during the UEFA Europa League quarter final second leg match between Manchester United and RSC Anderlecht at Old Trafford on March 20, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – APRIL 20: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United goes down injured during the UEFA Europa League quarter final second leg match between Manchester United and RSC Anderlecht at Old Trafford on March 20, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images) /

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s boots at Manchester United are, ‘literally’, seemingly impossible to fill, and it is the same wherever he has been or plied his trade. He is, after all, ‘the Zlatan’, and ‘a Lion’, according to himself. And he has always found a way to shut down his critics with his insatiable quest and hunger for success, which he backs up with an almost immortal drive, and immense handwork.

‘The Zlatan’ is a 6’ 5’’ nightmare to defenders everywhere. His daunting physical presence alone is massive, and when you add his goal scoring prowess combined with his martial arts skills that enable him to do almost impossible things in front of a goal, then finding a possible replacement for that caliber of player becomes a herculean task.

Replacing a player like Zlatan is no easy feat.  As seen from his mind-blowing stats, he is in a class by himself. He is a winner everywhere he goes. And not too many top footballers can say that.

From the foregoing, therefore, it would be appropriate to conclude that the entire footballing world; especially Manchester United and their supporters, have indeed suffered a terrible loss albeit temporarily. Frankly, Zlatan’s goals so far this season for Manchester United are what have kept them alive in the pursuit of the Champions League spots in the English Premier League.

But then, to paraphrase the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, “one player does not make a team”, and Manchester United must, therefore, find a way, no matter how hard, to make the team remain competitive. And according to Sir Alex Ferguson, once more, “if a player is good enough, then he is old enough”, which makes the most practical replacement for ‘the Zlatan’ at this crucial ‘Fergie time’ to be the young lad Marcus Rashford, a ‘Mancunian’ through and through.

Marcus Rashford has shown his ability on the field of play with unusual maturity and levelheadedness far beyond his young age. He has since proven the old adage that says, ‘age is nothing but a number’ to be very true. He deserves the chance to try to lay claim to ‘the Zlatan’s’ boots.

Anthony Martial is another possible replacement if he steps up to the plate. As the Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho, recently observed, “Martial is a talented player. But he must listen to me, and do what I tell him to. He has to play as I want him to play.” And considering Martial’s recent display against Burnley FC this past Sunday at Turf Moor, the immediate future might not be so bad after all.

Wayne Rooney, a devoted and diligent Manchester United ambassador for many years, cannot be ruled out from being able to step up his game. He has delighted fans over the years with his brilliance on the field of play, on a good day. His winning mentality and invaluable experience is something the team can benefit from at this very crucial time. And he just made a recent return to the first team after been sidelined with injuries.

Looking beyond this season would be another prospect entirely. The likes of Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane, Antoine Greizmann, Neymar, Jr., Paulo Dybala, etc are all names that have been linked with Manchester United recently. No surprise there. Manchester United is one of the top clubs in the world. And every good player is always linked to a top club around this time in the season. But of course, none of these names can be approached until after the end of the season.

However, the priority for Manchester United today would be to look inwards within the team. The current players must step up, and try to fit into Zlatan’s boots until at least the end of the season when it is possible to perhaps break the bank for a player like Antoine Greizmann, or Paulo Dybala, or someone of that caliber.

The obvious immediate goal of Manchester United is to, at the very least, qualify for the Champions League by finishing 3rd or 4th in the English Premier League; and to possibly win the Europa League this season, which also guarantees qualification for the Champions League next season and presents a valuable trophy to the team, a trophy they have never won before. Frankly, these are attainable goals considering the quality of some of the current players.

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