Without any shadow of a doubt, the English Premier League still remains the toughest and most competitive league in the world, and even the finest players can feel that intense corrivalry that either makes or mars them in the long run upon arrival.
Hitting the ground running is the hardest thing to achieve for any player newly arriving the league, and it takes more than talent and reputation to quiet settle down over here. But Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had no such problems since he came, even though everyone, except Mourinho but including Arsene Wenger had their doubts.
At 35, it’s hard for a player, a striker at that, to perform at the very top level in even the easiest and less competitive leagues. Doing it in the Premier League is a very rare scene, and it’s why hitting double figures in a season is almost impossible for players approaching their mid-30’s.
Right now, Zlatan Ibrahimovic proudly nears holding the record for the oldest player to have reached double figures and scored most goals in a Premier League season, as there are still 21 more games to go with his current tally at 11 in 16 appearances.
The last time someone achieved something similar was in 2003-04, when a 37-year-old Les Ferdinand struck 12 league goals in 29 EPL appearances for Leicester City. Considering this exploit of Zlatan’s, one can’t but wonder how he has been able to stay on form and evolve his game to United’s gain.
Following 4 goals in his first 4 Premier League games, it appeared the former PSG goal machine would have no problem doing what he does best in the top flight after all. However, what followed was a barren run of 6 league games without a goal, prompting many to wag their “I said it” tongue at Manchester United.
He has since snapped out of the snag he hit and scored 7 more goals. But he isn’t only finding the back of the net, there has been an improvement on some of his stats from his days at the other top leagues.
These stats will surprise you, he has won more aerial duels per 90 minutes (3.1) than during any of his last 7 seasons at Barcelona, Milan and PSG, with the closest being his 2.4 recorded at the San Siro in the 2010-11 season. Zlatan’s interceptions have also improved, as the 0.6 he currently averages per game is only rivalled by his record at Barcelona in 2009-10.
He might be recording his lowest shot accuracy (37.8%) and his 2nd lowest conversion rate (14.9%) in the last 7 seasons, but this hero has shown no sign of ageing in front of goal, and he is quickly becoming a United legend having directly won 10 points of the team’s 30 with his goals.
Mourinho’s system, style and changes in lineup have all combined to get the best out of Zlatan once again, and it’s all best summed up just like he told reporters after Saturday’s game against West Brom. He can play also at 50! As the old(er) he gets, the better – like the wine. It’s the perfect example no doubt, and yes Ibra, we all like wine!