'He has to play every game at the moment' - Manchester United legend compares Ibrahimovic to Roy Keane
Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher lead the plaudits for United hero Zlatan
Gary Neville believes Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho faces a huge task to replace talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, after comparing the Swedish icon to Old Trafford great Roy Keane.
Ibrahimovic’s two goals guided Mourinho to his first major trophy as United manager in Sunday’s EFL Cup Final, but the 35-year-old striker is stalling on signing the new one-year contract extension that has been offered to him by Old Trafford chiefs.
Speaking to Sky Sports, United legend Neville suggested Ibrahimovic has become an indispensable leader of Mourinho’s side, as he offered up a less than flattering comparison with his £89m team-mate Paul Pogba.
“He has to play every game at the moment,” Neville said on Monday Night Football.
“I’ve seen it over the years at United, they need players that have huge personality and character. You think of Bryan Robson or Roy Keane or Cristiano Ronaldo, even Wayne Rooney from three or four years ago when he was playing every single week.
“You look at Paul Pogba, who I don’t think is playing particularly well, who has got a big personality, but I think of Ibrahimovic and Rooney leaving potentially in the next 18 months, and there’s a huge void there to fill.
“Ibrahimovic is definitely carrying them at the moment. The other players on his team will look at him in the tunnel and they’ll just feel confident by him being there.
“Over the last three years, United have lacked personality and character. In him they’ve got someone who believes and does everything he says he’s going to do.
“Jose Mourinho needs to look at how he replaces that personality and that character at some point in the next 18 months because he’s unbelievable at what he’s doing at that club at the moment.”
Neville’s fellow Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher suggested Ibrahimovic has become a shining light of this season, with the Liverpool legend glowing in his praise for United’s talisman.
“I think it’s unbelievable what we’re watching,” stated Carragher.
“Throughout his career there was always a feeling in England that maybe he was a flat track bully. In Champions League games against English teams it never quite happened for him. But to think, after 30 years of age, he has got over 200 goals.
“Will he be able to cope with the demand of the Premier League? He told us he would and he’s proved to be correct.
“For him to be carrying one of the biggest clubs in the world, Manchester United, at his age, in the most difficult position on the field, I just think we’re watching something special. You only wish we had him in the Premier League 10 years ago.”