25 Aug Guess who’s back?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is ready to “finish what I started” after the veteran Sweden striker turned down other offers to re-sign for Manchester United on a one-season deal.
The 35-year-old netted 28 goals for the Red Devils after a free transfer move following his departure from Paris St Germain last summer.
Ibrahimovic’s campaign, though, was prematurely cut short by a knee ligament injury suffered in the Europa League quarter-final second leg against Anderlecht on April 20.
However, after initially looking set to depart Old Trafford having not been offered another year, the Premier League club confirmed on Thursday a new deal had now been agreed.
Ibrahimovic posted on his social media accounts a photo-shopped image of him, dressed in angelic robes, a rm-wrestling Satan and declared: ” I UNITED it @manchesterunited”.
In an interview with ESPN FC, Ibrahimovic revealed it was always his first choice to sign up again with United, but there was a “big chance” of joining the Major League Soccer after his Old Trafford swansong.
“There were a couple of teams reaching out, wanting ‘Ibra-kadabra’ in their team, but I had such a great year with United, we had a great year, we won three trophies. Fantastic guys, great club,” he said.
“I’m in a situation where I have to think 360 degrees around me. Everybody is happy about this and I’m super happy,” he said. “I come back to finish what I started.
“From my first year the team has been winning trophies and learning the sacrifice it takes to win a trophy, and the mental part and that is what I think the coach brought the team, the mental thing and me as a player.”
United offered Ibrahimovic the use of their Carrington facilities to carry out his rehabilitation following knee surgery to repair damaged ligaments.
Manager Jose Mourinho kept a keen eye on the player’s recovery, admitting a new deal could be on the cards last month.
It remains to be seen just when Ibrahimovic will be back in action and wearing the number 10 shirt which was vacated after Wayne Rooney left for Everton.
However, as always the forward remains confident he can make an impact for United once again.
“In the beginning when it (injury) happened, it was something new for me because it was a big injury, this is the first major injury (of my career),” Ibrahimovic said.
“It will take longer than one month, it’s a new situation, something new (and) I have to learn, a new challenge I have to go through, but mentally I am strong.
“I feel good. I work hard, I haven’t had a day off since the injury, I want to keep playing at the top level and you need to build up the knee.
“I don’t want to be something I wasn’t, I want to be the one I was and even better.”
A video posted on the Manchester United official Twitter account showed Ibrahimovic working in the club’s gym following his knee operation.
“Challenges, they are nothing new. I have faced them, conquered them all my life,” the striker said in a voiceover to the video.
“They said it was over, I was finished, I couldn’t come back. I didn’t have the hunger. No, I decide when it is time to stop and no one else.
“Giving up has never been an option. I have worked my body hard and I am feeling strong, strong enough to pull on the (United) shirt once again.
“And all the history, and all the hopes, the dreams, it is time to finish what I started. The journey continues.”
United’s frontline is now spearheaded by £75million summer signing Romelu Lukaku and has won both opening Premier League matches 4-0, with the Belgian scoring three goals.
Ibrahimovic told ESPNFC: “I am happy he came. I think the team is much stronger this season, although we lost Rooney, a legend.
“Signing Lukaku makes us even stronger because he has different qualities from me as a striker and from (Marcus) Rashford as a striker. He is a powerful guy and he brings extra qualities in a game.”
United boss Mourinho told the club’s official website he was confident the 6ft 5in frontman can, once fully fit, continue to play an important role for his squad .
“We are delighted Zlatan is on the road to recovery and we are equally delighted to have his ambition and experience back with us,” said Mourinho, whose side host Leicester on Saturday.
” After his contribution last season he deserves our trust and we will be patient waiting for him to return.
“I have no doubt that he will be important in the second part of the season.”