'He was a born winner' - Reds explain Zlatan's influence

Monday 05 June 2023 12:15

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of football's greatest players and fiercest personalities.

The legendary Swedish striker made his mark in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France, England and also in America during his illustrious career.

On Sunday, United's former forward officially retired, bringing the curtain down on a remarkable 24 years in professional football.

He spent just short of two seasons at Old Trafford and quickly became a fans' favourite, notably helping the Reds win the 2017 League Cup with a brace in the final.

Zlatan was also a popular member of the United dressing room, with some of the current squad having lined up alongside the iconic goalscorer.

Zlatan announces retirement


The football world responds to former United striker Ibrahimovic hanging up his boots.

"He was amazing," said Luke Shaw, speaking about Zlatan during an interview with club media back in January.

"He was brilliant - not just footballing-wise, I think everyone knows what sort of player he was.

"You could see why he’s won so much. He was a born winner. Whether it was on the pitch in games or training, every single game we played he would always want to win.

"But as well, off the pitch when you speak to him, he was absolutely hilarious, he was honestly so funny. All the lads here, we all loved him and he was a great person to have around. He made everyone smile a lot."

Marcus Rashford - who finished the 2022/23 season as United's top scorer with 30 goals - credits 'The Lion' with being instrumental for his growth as a player.

"His mentality was beyond anything I’d ever played with before," said Marcus.

"He didn’t care what anyone would say or what anyone was saying about him.

"In terms of mentality, he was key to my development."

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Scott McTominay and Anthony Martial were also key members of the Reds' squad during Erik ten Hag's inaugural season at the club, and were part of the team when Ibrahimovic was at United.

Scott spoke glowingly about the Sweden legend back in 2021.

"[He was] ruthless. I’m not going to say too much more than that," said McTominay.

"Good professional, worked hard, a big presence in the dressing room in terms of his voice and the way that he is with people.

"He’s a ruthless guy in terms of the way he wants to win 24/7, if you’re not on the same page as him, then you won’t succeed under him, he’ll make life hard for you, so you'd better work hard at winning, otherwise it’ll be a tough time for you.

"I love guys like that in football. He’s obviously had a legendary career which is a real credit to him, and obviously to his family as well, so I have nothing but big praise for him."

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Martial expressed his praise too, saying: "He is a top player and we can’t help but learn from just being alongside him, playing and training with him, seeing what he is doing now and what he has done in the past."

Diogo Dalot arrived at United just a couple of months after Zlatan's departure, but did get the chance to share a dressing room with Ibrahimovic while on loan at Milan in 2020/21.

"Ibra is always one of the first to come into the training ground," Diogo explained during his time in Italy. "These kinds of things help us to see that maybe we need to be as professional as him because, if you want to win as much as he won, you need to be doing this for a long time.

"He can give you the confidence when he thinks you need it. That sometimes means being brutally honest. Coming from him, we need to listen." 

We will remember your time at United fondly, Zlatan, and we wish you the best for the future.