“I have no individual targets because that I did already after three months in England. I conquered England – it took three months.”
In typically self-confident style, Zlatan Ibrahimovic summed up in January what many observers had already noticed – it didn’t take him very long to settle at Manchester United.
Though the Swede has had peaks and troughs in his first season at Old Trafford, there is no denying his influence.
So just how much worse off would United be this season without Ibrahimovic?
Sport360 takes a look at the number of points Zlatan has won for United in 2016-17.
MANCHESTER UNITED 2-0 SOUTHAMPTON – 3 points instead of 1
After opening his United account against Leicester in the Community Shield and adding another in the 3-1 victory over Bournemouth on his Premier League debut, Ibrahimovic conjured a match-winning salvo against Southampton on his Old Trafford bow. His two goals – a towering header and a penalty – gave United all three points versus Saints.
SWANSEA 1-3 MANCHESTER UNITED – 3 points instead of 1
Ibrahimovic’s rapid-fire start to his United career soon slowed down and it was almost three months before the former Juventus and Barcelona striker’s second match-winning contribution. Away at Swansea City, Paul Pogba opened the scoring but it was another brace from Ibrahimovic that handed United victory. The first was a rasping low shot from distance – followed by an entertaining flying kick celebration – while his second was an accomplished left-foot finish.
MANCHESTER UNITED 1-1 WEST HAM – 1 point instead of 0
An early strike from Diafra Sakho saw United trail 1-0 at Old Trafford just two minutes into the game but once again the Red Devils were able to turn to their Swedish talisman for a bail out. Meeting Pogba’s floated cross into the box, Ibrahimovic rose to head the ball past West Ham keeper Darren Randolph. United piled on the pressure in the second-half but could not break through as the game finished 1-1.
EVERTON 1-1 MANCHESTER UNITED – 1 point instead of 0
Ibrahimovic has always shown a penchant for the spectacular and against Everton he scored a brilliantly improvised goal. Latching on to another Pogba through-ball, the Swede beat the Toffees’ offside trap before lifting the ball high over onrushing keeper Maarten Stekelenburg. The ball bounced up against the crossbar, then against the post, before dramatically spinning over the line. It looked as though it would be the winning goal, but a late Leighton Baines penalty snatched a point for Everton.
CRYSTAL PALACE 1-2 MANCHESTER UNITED – 3 points instead of 1
After James McArthur had equalised Pogba’s opener it appeared Palace would claim a draw at Selhurst Park but Ibrahimovic had other ideas. Pogba was once more provider for his team-mate as he slid in the Swede, who showed great nerve to rifle home a powerful left-foot strike from a narrow angle to steal all three points in the 88th minute.
WEST BROM 0-2 MANCHESTER UNITED – 3 points instead of 1
A third match-winning brace of the season from Ibrahimovic handed United victory at the Hawthorns. The first was a powerful downward header from Jesse Lingard’s cross, while the second was self-made – Ibrahimovic chipping the ball between two Baggies defenders to tee himself up before firing home a deflected effort.
MANCHESTER UNITED 1-1 LIVERPOOL – 1 point instead of 0
Liverpool were out to prove their title credentials at Old Trafford and looked to be doing just that as James Milner’s penalty game them a first-half lead. United pressed the Reds hard in the second-half and were eventually rewarded with an 84th-minute equaliser, Ibrahimovic straining every sinew of his neck muscles to direct a header beyond Simon Mignolet.
TOTAL POINTS WON BY ZLATAN: 11 – Without Ibrahimovic, United would be 11 points and 14 goals worse off, which would leave Jose Mourinho’s side in 8th place in the table – behind West Brom and Everton – and with a goal difference of -2.
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