"Great things also come to an end" - Zlatan Ibrahimovic leaves Man United

Simon Peach 22/03/2018
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Former Man United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Manchester United have confirmed the termination of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s contract as the striker prepares to join the LA Galaxy.

The 36-year-old was released last summer after a fine first season at Old Trafford ended in a serious knee injury, only to be rewarded with a new contract until the end of the 2017-18 season in August last year.

However, Ibrahimovic has only managed seven appearances this term as a knee issue halted his comeback and United have now confirmed his exit.

He is set to sign for Major League soccer’s LA Galaxy, with confirmation possible as early as Friday.

A statement from United read: “Manchester United confirms that it has agreed to the termination of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s contract with immediate effect.

“Everyone at the club would like to thank Zlatan for his contribution to the team since his arrival and wishes him well for the future.”

Ibrahimovic released a statement on Instagram, alongside a picture of him arm wrestling with a red devil in a nod to United’s nickname.

He wrote: “Great things also come to an end and it is time to move on after two fantastic seasons with Manchester United. Thank you to the club, the fans, the team, the coach, the staff and everybody who shared with me this part of my history.”

Ibrahimovic returned for United in November after recovering from surgery to repair his ruptured cruciate ligament.

But his last game was on Boxing Day, when he was substituted at half-time of the 2-2 draw at home to Burnley, and, although earlier this month he said he was targeting the Champions League last-16 second leg tie with Sevilla, he did not make the matchday 18.

The arrival of Alexis Sanchez in January and the form of Romelu Lukaku have made it even less likely for Ibrahimovic to regain his place and, with question marks over his fitness and his contract ticking down, the time appears right for a move.

Manager Jose Mourinho began to pave the way for an exit when he said in January he would not stand in the former Sweden international’s way if he wanted to leave Old Trafford.

Earlier this month the United boss admitted he expected the striker to leave at the end of the season.

Ibrahimovic, who scored 29 goals in 53 matches for United, would be the latest big-name signing for the Galaxy following the likes of former United and Real Madrid midfielder David Beckham and ex-Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.

However, MLS has moved away from signing ageing players in recent years. Former Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger’s move from United to the Chicago Fire last March was the exception rather the rule, with the 12 designated players brought from outside MLS for the 2018 season having an average age of 23.16 years old.

However, Ibrahimovic’s talent and standing in the game has proved understandably attractive for the Galaxy.

The most successful team in MLS history need a statement signing after a poor campaign and the arrival of Los Angeles Football Club.

The new kids of the block have won the first two matches in MLS, with coach Bob Bradley and the likes of Carlos Vela being embraced by the LA Football community.

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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Jose Mourinho says "people with a brain" understand Man United are in transition

David Cooper 22/03/2018
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Man United boss Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho has launched a defiant defence of his Manchester United reign, insisting “people with a brain” should understand his team are going through a rebuilding period.

United have endured a difficult season and trail 16 points behind runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Mourinho’s side crashed out of the Champions League after a tame home defeat to Sevilla and also suffered an embarrassing League Cup exit against second tier Bristol City.

“I understand the sadness of being knocked out in the Champions League, but I don’t understand anything more than that,” Mourinho told CNN.

“In the history of football all around the world, not just in England, you had the biggest clubs with the moments of transition, you have the biggest clubs with moments of continuous and permanent victories, and these are phases in the club.”

Widely criticised for the unadventurous nature of United’s performances for much of this season, Mourinho has been increasingly tetchy of late.

The former Chelsea boss, who won the Europa League and League Cup with United last term, reasserted his credentials as the right man for the job during an impassioned 12-minute speech to the media last week.

But he then accused his players of being scared to play and questioned their personality following Saturday’s drab FA Cup quarter-final win over Brighton.

Now Mourinho has again claimed he will eventually get United back on track and that anyone who understands football should appreciate the size of the task he faced following the failed reigns of Louis van Gaal and David Moyes.

Highlighting City’s spending under boss Pep Guardiola and the club’s Abu Dhabi-based owners, Mourinho told CNN: “Looking to us in the Premier League we have one team, one club clearly better prepared than us in the past few years to be first and we have 18 clubs behind us. One in front of us, 18 behind us.

“Of course, in the future we want to have 19 clubs behind us but this is the reality, and the reality is for people with a brain, with common sense, with knowledge of what sports is, we are in a moment of transition.

“And being in a moment of transition and still managing to do what we did last season, and win trophies, and to do what we are trying to do this season, which is still trying to win a trophy and trying to be second. I think we are in a good position.”

Provided by AFP Sport 

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Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk is named Netherlands captain

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New Netherlands skipper Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has been confirmed as Holland’s new captain by coach Ronald Koeman.

The former Southampton and Everton boss takes charge of his first match as Oranje boss when England arrive for a friendly in Amsterdam on Friday.

Ahead of the match, Koeman has confirmed Van Dijk – a player he worked with at St Mary’s – as his new captain.

“To be named international captain of Holland is very special and does a lot for me,” Van Dijk said.

“It’s going to be very special. Against England is a little bit more special.”

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