Zlatan Ibrahimovic explains why his role at Manchester United will be different this season

by Leo Nieboer

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has noted that his role at Manchester United wearing the No.10 shirt this season will differ from what supporters saw during his opening campaign at Old Trafford.

The Swede led the line under Jose Mourinho throughout the 2016/17 campaign, netting 28 goals in total, before seeing his season cut cruelly short by a knee ligament injury in April.

He penned a new one year deal with the club over the summer and will wear the No.10 shirt this time around after Romelu Lukaku asked his permission to take the No.9 shirt.

And Zlatan, speaking in an interview with Volvo, explained how the No.10 shirt actually suits him far better.

“To me, number 10 is the star,” he said. “The one who makes the difference, gets noticed, wins the matches and is the leader.”

“And I see myself in that position but it is not something that is given to you, it is just something you are, that’s just the way it is.

“To be honest, it is like a trigger for me coming back from that injury. Because I wore the number 10 on the Swedish national team and PSG.

“I would have worn it at Inter but I soon moved to Barcelona. I wanted it in Milan but took another number out of respect. In Ajax I didn’t have it. I feel like a ten and I stand for number 10. It will go down in history that I always had number 10.”

When you imagine the typical qualities of a No.10 – agile, nimble across the ground, adept at threading passes through tight areas, ghosting into space unnoticed – the 36-year-old doesn’t really come to mind.

And yet, at the same time, the role fits him like a glove. No.10s cannot simply caress the ball and link up with teammates; he needs to be a figurehead, a catalyst. Somebody with an air of something different and less predictable. Christian Eriksen’s recent display against Ireland was a perfect example.

Needless to say, the Swede has provided exactly that throughout his career: a unique and largely unstoppable way of unpicking opponents.

Mourinho would receive plenty of joy throughout the second half of the season if he can construct an attacking line-up that, while simultaneously remaining fluid, places Zlatan at its nucleus.

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