Alan Smith: Zlatan Ibrahimovic has replicated Eric Cantona’s impact at Man United

by Leo Nieboer

Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith believes that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has replicated Eric Cantona’s impact at Manchester United this season.

The 35-year-old, who arrived at the club in July, has netted 24 goals so far this season, with his latest strike coming against Blackburn Rovers in the League Cup.

Saint Etienne manager Christophe Galtier, former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp and former Man United captain Roy Keane have all compared Zlatan with the great Frenchman in the past.

And Smith, speaking after United’s 2-1 win over Blackburn, became the latest pundit to draw such a comparison.

“It’s what he brings to the dressing room,” he said. “Even before you go out on the pitch everybody looks up to him.

“He’s also a top trainer, demands the best every day of the week. He sets the standard which is so important, like [Eric] Cantona.

“The younger lads will look at him training and think ‘yeah, I’ve got to be like that’. And it’s infectious.”

The legend of Cantona is so potent, so entrenched in the club’s identity, that even people – like myself – who never watched him live can still understand the King’s legacy and imbibe, at least partly, the aura he brought to Old Trafford.

And for many players, managers and pundits, it seems impossible to not draw comparisons with Zlatan. The Swede possesses an air of magnetism, a kind of raw, unswerving arrogance, that generates an atmosphere himself. His introduction against Blackburn completely changed the mood of Ewood Park, almost as if those present were expecting something monumental to happen, and they were duly proven right by the Swede.

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