Paul Ince: Zlatan Ibrahimovic has replaced Wayne Rooney as Manchester United’s leader

by Leo Nieboer

Former Manchester United and Liverpool midfielder Paul Ince believes that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has replaced Wayne Rooney as the side’s on-pitch leader this season.

Rooney begun the 2016/17 campaign starting alongside Ibrahimovic, featuring primarily as a No.10, but quickly lost his place in the side following a string of woeful performances. He hasn’t made a Premier League start since December.

Zlatan, on the other hand, has been an omnipresent figure at the masthead of Man United’s attack, claiming 26 goals in 28 games so far.

And Ince believes that the Swede has snatched the role of leader from Rooney’s hands this season.

“It makes perfect sense,” he said when asked about the prospect of a move back to Everton for Rooney. “It would be him returning back home. He’s an Everton lad at the end of the day,” Ince told PaddyPower.

“If he decided to go there, he’s going to a team with an excellent manager in a side that are pushing forwards and want to play good football.

“There are good players coming through and they are only looking onwards and upwards.

“A move back to Everton would also mean he could be the main man again.

“Like Zlatan is at Manchester United at the moment, he would be the leader. Young players would look up to him and the fans would welcome him back home.”

It was indeed fitting that, as Zlatan headed home a dramatic late cup final winner against Southampton, Rooney was standing on the sidelines, looking somehow smaller than normal, watching on as this new-look Mourinho side – spearheaded by the talismanic 35-year-old – made their biggest statement yet.

Rooney can always look back on what has been a truly sensational – and indeed historic – career, and his teammates will always see him as this side’s original conqueror – the man who single handedly guided his side to glory on so many occasions.

But his days of conquering are well and truly over. Zlatan, however, appears to be far from finished; that winning goal against Southampton was, above anything, a visual demonstration of Rooney handing the baton to the Swede.

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