What lies ahead for injured Zlatan?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic eventually ended discussions about whether he would rejoin Manchester United or not in typical Zlatan fashion.

Tweeting an image of himself swathed in white robes and bathed in godly light, the mercurial Swede is depicted in an arm wrestle with the Devil. The caption of the image purely states that “I UNITED IT”, although the imagery is slightly disquieting.

After all, Manchester United are the Red Devils. Many queried the need for Ibrahimovic to return, and an arm wrestle with the Devil provokes the notion that his presence will be working against the squad rather than working with the squad. Of course, this is just classic Zlatan posturing and he will be returning with the best intentions. Yet the concerns about how his arrival will affect the balance of the team are valid and sizeable. The Swede has signed a one-year deal, with most having accepted that he would leave Old Trafford without claiming a Premier League title.

Manchester United have started the season with a swagger to their attacking play. This swagger seems almost unprecedented, which is a reminder of just how long it has been since United were a significant force under the guidance of Alex Ferguson. Leicester City and Swansea City are unlikely to provide the sternest tests of the season, whilst West Ham United are currently abysmal, so a 2-0 victory against the former and 4-0 thrashings of the other two should be taken with a pinch of salt. United were clear favourites across betting markets for all of those matches, so bigger tests lie ahead.

But it is the manner of the victories that has seen pundits scrambling to change their pre-season predictions before anyone notices. It was widely expected that the two Manchester clubs would battle it out for the title, but Manchester City have spluttered into life this season whilst their rivals have purred smoothly like a well-oiled machine. Pre-season odds placed City as favourites ahead of United, but United’s price is shortening with every impressive victory. United remain relatively untested in the league until a trip to Anfield in mid-October, but they could have established a lead at the top of the table by then.

lukaku

Romelu Lukaku has hit the Old Trafford ground running. Source: Manchester United via Facebook.

United’s ruthless attack has been spearheaded by marquee signing Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian star has settled into life at Old Trafford seamlessly and prolifically, and is now a clear favourite to win the Golden Boot. Lukaku’s early form will provide food for thought for punters seeking betting offers for the 2017-2018 season. The biggest factor working against the Belgian will be how Ibrahimovic fits into the team upon resumption of fitness. The Swede is set to return for the festive season, which would certainly be a boost for a side entering a hectic run of fixtures. It is a struggle to see how Ibrahimovic and Lukaku fit into the same side; Lukaku could be shunted to the wing, but it would be a massive compromise for his set of skills. Both demand to be the focal point of the attack, and perhaps Zlatan will have to settle for cameos and cup games.

Lukaku is far more mobile than the ageing Swede, with Ibrahimovic unable to keep up with United’s rapid counter-attacks and consequently holding up play. This can have its benefits, but it seems that Jose Mourinho wants to capitalise on a midfield that can transition from defence to attack powerfully and rapidly. It will not be dull watching Ibrahimovic wrestle with a redefined role in a squad that he often carried last season, but if that sacrifice leads to United claiming the Premier League title then there is no doubt that Zlatan will consider it a job well done.

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