When Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced that he had signed with Manchester United, I figured he’d be good for a few great goals, a bunch of arrogant quotes and, a whole lot of moments where he came up short, thereby confirming the long-held belief that he couldn’t play in England.
I was right about the first two things. As for the third thing, I’ve never been happier to be wrong.
The Zlatan Ibrahimovic Era may have come to a premature end on Thursday when United’s leading scorer tore his ACL and PCL during a 2-1 extra time victory over Anderlecht in the Europa League. The initial prognosis is that Ibrahimovic will be out until, at least, January 2018 – all but ending his Old Trafford tenure and, possibly, his career.
If this is the end of the Zlatan Era at United, then it’s hard to complain too much. The man who vowed to become the God of Old Trafford, came pretty damn close to living up to his billing. With 28 goals in 46 matches, the 35 year-old Ibrahimovic proved that he could thrive in the Premier League and answered his many detractors who considered him to be overrated. In fact, his scoring ratio at United was better than either of his two seasons at Juventus, his sole season at Barcelona and his first season at Inter. At times, he even carried United – since the 4-0 loss to Chelsea in the league, Ibra has scored 18 goals, 12 of which either saved a point for United or won the match. And, in his only cup final as a United player, he refused to let his team lose, scoring a brace at Wembley, including the match-winner against a rampant Southampton team that, until Zlatan’s header, seemed more likely to lift the trophy.
Mostly, United fans will remember how he brought back the kind of magic that the club has lacked since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. The fans have always loved larger-than-life personalities like Best, Cantona and Ronaldo who could score magical, momentum-shifting goals and then brag about it afterwards. Ibra, definitely, belonged in that class and despite the brevity of his tenure, he’ll go down in history as an important player for the club.
Thanks for the memories, Zlatan.