Man United signs Ibrahimovic, reunites him with Mourinho

ABS-CBN Sports on Jul 02, 2016 10:53 AM
Man United signs Ibrahimovic, reunites him with Mourinho
FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008 file photo, Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho congratulates Zlatan Ibrahimovic, right, after scoring against Panathinaikos, during a Champions League soccer match at the Olympic stadium of Athens. Zlatan Ibrahimovic said on his official social media accounts Wednesday, June 30, 2016 that his next club will be Manchester United. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)

ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer

Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed for Manchester United on Friday, handing one of soccer's most enigmatic players a late career move to the world's richest league and a chance to help revive a fallen giant.

The 34-year-old Swedish forward, who was a free agent after his Paris Saint-Germain contract expired last month, joined the 20-time English champions on a one-year deal with an option for an additional year.

It will be the well-traveled Ibrahimovic's first spell playing in England, having also played for Malmo, Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona and AC Milan.

"I compare it with the (Floyd) Mayweather-(Manny) Pacquiao fight," Ibrahimovic said of the 2015 world championship boxing bout. "They said it would never happen, but it happened.

"I am super happy. My decision was the easiest part. The rest was a puzzle but the puzzle came together."

Ibrahimovic has won league titles in four countries, including a hat trick of successes at Inter Milan where he worked briefly under new United manager Jose Mourinho.

"The only regret I have with Jose was that I had a short time with him. I had one season (2008-9)," Ibrahimovic said. "We won together, we enjoyed together and we had a great time together.

"I learned a lot and I got to know him ... he is a winner; I am a winner. We know both what we want: we want to win. Wherever we go, we win. And we will win."

United is relying on their thirst for glory to power the club back up the Premier League standings and back into the Champions League.

"I am certain that his talent will delight fans at Old Trafford next season and that his experience will be invaluable in helping to develop the younger players in the squad," Mourinho said.

Ibrahimovic will face competition for a starting place from a player almost half his age: 18-year-old striker Marcus Rashford.

But what Ibrahimovic guarantees United is a highly marketable personality, an attractive proposition as the club seeks to retain and expand its global array of sponsors to fund such luxury signings.

What is less certain is the impact Ibrahimovic will have on the field as the club tries to halt the stagnation that set in under Louis van Gaal, who was fired despite winning the FA Cup in May.

Ibrahimovic scored 38 goals in 31 French league games last season, as PSG eased to a fourth successive title by a remarkable 31 points. But the figures also point to a lack of domestic competition, and the striker is in the swansong of his career.

Ibrahimovic will find it far tougher in the Premier League where he is joining a club that has not won the league since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and finished fifth last season. He will have to settle for playing in the second-tier Europa League next season after United failed to qualify for the Champions League.

"Ibra is one of the best strikers in the world and a player who always gives 100 percent," Mourinho said. "He has won the most important league championships in the world of football.

"Now he has the opportunity to play in the best league in the world and I know he will grasp this opportunity and will work hard to help the team win titles."

Ibrahimovic will be completely focused on United after retiring from international duty when Sweden was knocked out of the European Championship in the group stage last month.

"Now the hard work starts," Ibrahimovic said. "I'm super happy"

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Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

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