Zlatan Ibrahimovic is “at the top of his qualities” and can spearhead Manchester United’s trophy drive both at home and in Europe, according to Jose Mourinho.
New United boss Mourinho was delighted with his side’s 3-1 victory at Bournemouth on the Premier League’s opening weekend, with Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Ibrahimovic all on target at the Vitality Stadium.
Mourinho hailed 34-year-old Ibrahimovic’s mentoring qualities with United’s younger stars, but also insisted the evergreen 116-cap Sweden striker remains at the sport’s pinnacle.
“Forget the passport, forget 34 years old: the body and mentality is not of a 34-year-old guy,” Mourinho said.
“I think he’s at the top of his qualities. His table for breakfast and his table for meals, he is surrounded by the young ones, surrounded by the kids.
“Luke Shaw, Marcus Rashford, these are the guys that are with him on the table. So he knows what he can be for them.
“When I look to the players that were not on the pitch, (Jesse) Lingard, Rashford, (Henrikh) Mkhitaryan, Memphis Depay, Ashley Young, we have a lot.
“So when September arrives, when cup talk arrives and the Europa League arrives, we have the people to play and to try to be competitive in every competition.”
Hailing defender Eric Bailly’s Premier League bow, Mourinho also revealed he had been gripped by pre-match nerves on leading United into the new campaign.
“When you buy somebody like him you have always the question mark which is how the personality adapts to a complete different situation from before,” Mourinho said of the big-money summer signing from Villarreal.
“Playing in Spain is different than England. Playing in Villarreal is different than Man U.
“Playing to finish four, five, six in the table is different to trying to win it.
“But he’s showing big personality, which is incredible.
“But I think to be surrounded by organisation makes life easier. And the team was very solid, very compact.
“So we create a habitat of stability. But the reality is that he’s showing great qualities.”
When asked if he had been nervous before his first Premier League clash as United boss, Mourinho replied: “To be honest, before the match a little bit, yes, but to have that feeling is normal.
“I’ll never forget one day I came to Old Trafford with Real Madrid, and before the match I was asking Sir Alex Ferguson, ‘Are you still nervous?’ – ‘yes’.
“So I understood – never change.”
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe was left to lament gifting United the opening goal, which completely altered the match’s complexion.
Simon Francis’ under-hit back-pass set Artur Boruc scrambling and, as the goalkeeper attempted to clear, the ball instead rebounded into the path of Mata, who tapped into an empty net.
“The game was on a knife-edge until the first goal,” Howe said.
“The way the goal’s come about was a hard one to take, because it looked as though we’d got away with the mistake, and then for the unlucky ricochet we concede.”