Young Players Helped Ibrahimovic Roll Back The Years

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been reflecting fondly of his time at Manchester United, the club he joined at the age of 34, where the young players helped him roll back the years.

The former Sweden international made the move to United from Paris Saint-Germain, just before his 35th birthday during the summer of 2016.

Having conquered many of Europe’s top leagues including Ajax, Juventus, Barcelona and both Milan sides, he was looking for a new challenge, but back at the time questions were raised as to whether he would rise to the physical challenge of the PL at such a late stage in his career.

Ibrahimovic netted 28 goals across all competitions as United lifted the Community Shield, the EFL Cup and the Europa League. But a serious knee injury tried to stop him in his tracks.

Determined to leave football the way he had entered in instead of being told his career was over, he decided to depart for LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer (MLS), where his typically superb displays have earned him a place in the league’s best XI and the newcomer of the year award.

Ibrahimovic has been telling BBC Sport that it was the players back at United who kept him young.

“They [critics] thought I was too old, I was 35 and I made the Premier League look old,” he said.

“It took me three months to convince everyone who I was. That was the challenge and I never turn down a challenge.

“I miss all of them. I had a fantastic time at United. Wazza [Wayne Rooney], Michael Carrick, then the young guys that wanted to show the world who they are by playing football and they had a lot of hunger to show.

“I had a good time because I got to know everyone, I was the mature guy with all these guys who were not mature.

“They made me feel like Benjamin Button. I was getting younger and younger, then unfortunately I got my injury.

“The Premier League should be happy I did not come 10 years ago because it would’ve been a different story. You see all my numbers [of goals] and all of these numbers would’ve been in the Premier League.

“I came to the right club in United. It was the club and the shirt that I was supposed to shine in and I did it.”