Former Newcastle and Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew believes that Zlatan Ibrahimovic can helo Romelu Lukaku develop at Manchester United this season.
The Swede, released in June, has entered talks with the club over a new short term deal once he returns to fitness in January which could extend to a coaching role once he retires from playing.
Lukaku, his replacement, has enjoyed a sensational start to life at Man United, claiming four goals in his first three games in a red shirt.
But Pardew, speaking after United’s 4-0 win over Swansea City, believes Zlatan’s influence can help the Belgian develop other aspects to his game.
“Lukaku needs to improve at Man Utd on when they regain possession,” he said.
“His movement today was not good enough, to go short or long, to play quick. He needs more of that [movement] and he’ll get more touches.
“There were times when the ball changed hands to United and he was static. He needs to think a little bit quicker but when the chance comes, he doesn’t miss. He’s a great finisher.
“We were talking earlier about [Ruud] van Nistelrooy, Teddy Sheringham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He needs to get some of that cleverness about where to be without the ball.
“He’s at the best place to learn that because he’s going to be watching the videos with Jose Mourinho after the game.”
United fans were quick to lay into Pardew for making these comments soon after their side demolished Paul Clement’s side in South Wales, but we shouldn’t be so averse to constructive criticism.
Supporters want to see Lukaku score goals and he hasn’t disappointed. To many, the 24-year-old’s tally this season is all that matters. United have been doing just fine so far, after all.
But there will come a point this season where things aren’t so rosy and supporters grow frustrated at Lukaku’s movement, which is far from being the strongest aspect to his game. Zlatan’s presence at Carrington last season saw Marcus Rashford‘s intelligence on the pitch improve tenfold; the teenager, it should be noted, keeps his place in the side primarily because of his awareness on the ball and decision making as opposed to how many goals he scores.
And Zlatan, in the same way, can use his invaluable expertise to help Lukaku mature over the next few months, and supporters ought to welcome that prospect.