When Manchester United signed Robin van Persie for £22 million in 2012, there were some fans who raised an eyebrow over signing a 28-year-old injury prone striker and others who felt it was Arsenal who got the better end of the deal.
When van Persie was atop a bus with the Premier League trophy less than 12 months later, parading the streets of Manchester with tens of thousands of fans littered in the streets – hanging off scaffolding, waving out of windows and finding any platform they could to see the bus pass – nobody questioned his price tag, it was rightly considered the signing of the season.
We lost the league on goal difference the year before, so Sir Alex Ferguson signed the best striker on paper in England and he proved to be the catalyst behind our title with 26 goals and nine assists in the league. The fact he dwindled away after Fergie’s departure was irrelevant, he’ll rightly be remembered as a brilliant signing for what he did in his debut year.
Heading into another summer of uncertainty, Man United find themselves being heavily linked with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and reports suggest United is where he wants to join if he moves to England (so long as Louis van Gaal leaves it seems). With these links, there are parallels to be drawn with the van Persie signing.
Should United sign somebody who is so old? Should United sign somebody who will cost so much in wages when we’re only going to get potentially one season out of him? It’s not a usual United type signing is it?
Manchester United have only scored 39 Premier League goals in 32 games so far this season, three more than 18th placed Sunderland and one less than Bournemouth.
And all of these points are fair to raise. Zlatan is 34 and is more than likely off to David Beckham’s Miami MLS franchise in the future, so he wouldn’t be hanging around for long. Furthermore, as a club we have traditionally bought young players to let them grow at Old Trafford with Anthony Martial being the latest example. After all, prior to van Persie’s signing in 2012/13, the last fully established striker we signed was Dimitar Berbatov in 2008/2009 for £30.75 million.
But should fans be looking towards Ibrahimovic’s age and wages or simply concentrating on what he could bring to the team? This season alone he has 40 goals for PSG and 11 assists in 41 appearances, albeit in Ligue 1 but it’s still one hell of a goalscoring record. In a team which is struggling desperately for goals, would somebody like Zlatan not bring an immediate solution?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has won the league every single year he has played at all his clubs between 2003-2016 apart from the 2011/12 season with AC Milan – in 12 years, he has won 11 league titles in four countries.
And if United are looking for one player to reinstate the winning mentality which became a habit under Sir Alex, there aren’t many who can rival Ibrahimovic. He has won the league title in four countries with six separate clubs – Holland (Ajax), Italy (AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan), Spain (FC Barcelona) and France (Paris St.Germain). Winning is the standards which Zlatan has built his career on and that’s what United is trying to find again.
Then there is the question of how he would fit into the team as he’d demand to be one of our top earners and would expect to start every game. With Wayne Rooney in the team as well, where would that leave Martial and Rashford? Would they play second fiddle? That’s not down to us fans to decide, that’s for the manager to figure out. On paper, you want four top strikers at your club to compete in all competitions and a quarter of Martial, Rashford, Rooney and Ibrahimovic? That’s got goals aplenty.
When you take a look at the pros and cons of United signing Ibrahimovic, there are arguments on either side of the fence but if we brought him in and in May 2017 he was holding the Premier League aloft on our parade in Manchester, would any United fan care how old he was or how much he got paid?