The frustrations around Manchester United can be felt in the Old Trafford air. Their Premier League campaign’s started in an underwhelming manner, having already drawn two and lost one game in the opening month. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side has taken one step forward, but also one step back since the gloomy end to last season.
While Harry Maguire plus Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s additions have fortified their defence, they’re now lacking the finishing touches to kill off games. Daniel James’ proven to be their best economical signing since Robin van Persie, having netted three times already. But there’s still much lacking in the final third, with chances not being finished off.
Granted Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have scored a couple of goals, but they’re just not clinical enough as the traditional number 9 OGS wants. At this time of distress, a former warrior in Los Angeles Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic stated that he’d love to return to Old Trafford. Despite laughed off as a joke, this could be a match made in heaven as Zlatan is the perfect lethal finisher to tune up their goal-scoring ratio.
Zlatan’s dominance in MLS
It’s understandable why Zlatan loves calling himself the King of Major League Soccer. Ever since he’s arrived at the States, he’s been unstoppable for a relatively average LA Galaxy side. One can say he’s carried them on his back for many victories. He’s scored 45 goals & assisted 11 more in just 50 appearances for Galaxy so far.
It’s almost like he’s been unchained in the 2019 season. Zlatan’s netted 22 goals in as many games. He’s also averaged 5.1 shots and 5.2 aerial battles won per game, signifying just how involved he is.
His on-going beef with Carlos Vela has seemed to reinvigorate the Swede. It’s almost like MLS is too easy for him (he almost certainly believes this). Even at 37 years old, Zlatan is showing he could still thrive, at least in a limited role, in the Premier League.
United’s goal-scoring dilemma
Now in the face of it, Manchester United are tied for third (behind Manchester City & Liverpool) in most goals scored in the Premier League so far. But the opening weekend 4-0 drubbing of Chelsea probably narrows things down. Following that euphoria, it’s all gone downhill.
Despite chances being created, nobody is there to finish them off. In all their games so far, United have had a superior XG than their opponents, including 2.24 against Crystal Palace and 1.90 against Southampton. However, they only got a goal apiece in those games, resulting in dropped points.
Chances are being created. Paul Pogba’s created 11 goal-scoring chances, the most in the league. Daniel James has often popped in inviting crosses or low passes only to see them being wasted. Wan-Bissaka’s crosses aren’t being capitalized by anyone either.
Neither Rashford nor Martial are that clinical to score off every chance. They’re weak aerially and incapable of scoring “scruffy” goals like OGS asked.
Who continues to show time and time again that he can opportunistically dominate aerials and creatively put away scruffy goals? This guy:
Can he solve Man U’s woes?
If not anything, Zlatan has gotten even better when it comes to contributing goals after moving to LA Galaxy. Most impressively, he rises to big occasions and relishes a challenge. Yes, Zlanta is fully recovered from the career-threatening injury he suffered at United. His confidence and game is back.
In his first campaign for United, in which he scored more than 25 goals in all competitions, he maintained impressive accuracy in the final third. In the 17 league goals, he averaged 0.54 XG which was much better than the 0.44 XG that Martial & Rashford boasted last season. Having averaged a goal every game in 2019, he’s proven himself a complete striker.
Zlatan is an aerial monster. He’ll latch onto those AWB crosses. Moreover, with his experience, he gets into promising goal-scoring positions which will help United’s wingers as well as midfielders. He has a close relationship with Pogba. I think can get the Frenchman operating with finesse again as well as make the most of Pogba’s often brilliant vision.
Moreover, he can also be a mentor towards the young strikers at United. Martial and Rashford can both learn a thing or two about clinically finishing chances from him. Young Mason Greenwood would also, for me, benefit massively to help evolve into the Robin van Persie long-term successor OGS so desperately wants.
Of course, Zlatan can’t start every game 37 (he’ll be 38 in October). He’ll probably play alternatively to help avoid another injury set-back. However, even from the bench, he can make a huge impact to score goals and win United tight games.
Even if he arrives in January, Zlatan could provide a missing piece for United to salvage a shaky season. With the league so unsettled after Liverpool and Manchester City, Zlatan’s ability to finish opportunities may be enough to get Man U back into the Champions League before the 2019-20 season ends.