Former Manchester United midfielder Ray Wilkins believes Zlatan Ibrahimovic is suffering from a lack of confidence.
The Swede, after making an excellent start to life at Old Trafford, has gone seven games without a goal, with his last strike coming against Zorya Luhansk in the Europa League.
His last performance – against Burnley, where he failed to convert any of his 12 attempts on goal – gave rise to a cacophony of criticism from United fans.
Wilkins, speaking on Sky Sports, claimed the striker has encountered a serious drop in confidence.
“Zlatan looks like he’s suffering from a lack of confidence,” he said.
“He doesn’t look as if he’s very confident when he’s in on goal. There was a fantastic give-and-go that he did with Paul Pogba (against Burnley) and I thought if he’d just rip through the ball then he must score.
“But he didn’t. He tried to side-foot it and it went for a corner-kick. At the start of the season he was smashing those in.
“He scored 52 in 50 games last year. He’s a phenomenal centre-forward and I was delighted when United bought him.
“But the Premier League is not an easy division. We have seen the coaches saying it – even Pep Guardiola – that every game is different.
“At Old Trafford, against Burnley, United would be expected to take three points. They’ve dropped further behind the big boys and it’s a setback. It wasn’t the best result.”
The job of a striker is, above anything, a mentally strenuous occupation. You are judged purely by your goalscoring record. Nothing else matters. If you’re scoring goals, all is well; if you’re not, widespread derision follows.
And Zlatan, with every game that passes without a goal, is feeling the heat of the world’s magnifying glass. He has hit a proverbial dry patch – a spell of misfortune cast by the footballing gods, where absolutely nothing goes right.
With this in mind, constantly throwing Ibrahimovic into the starting XI makes little sense. A brief spell on the sidelines – an opportunity to clear the mind, reassess and rest – would do the 35-year-old a world of good.