Ibrahimovic on target to take over from Messi

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates scoring Manchester United’s second goal against Sunderland on St Stephen’s Day. Photo: PA

Zlatan Ibrahimovic can usurp Lionel Messi's goal-scoring exploits when Manchester United take on Middlesbrough on New Year's Eve.

The 35-year-old has scored 50 times for United and PSG in 2016 - and 17 in all competitions since his summer move to Old Trafford.

And Phil Jones has explained why the veteran is still producing the goods at the highest level.

"He's a handful," said the defender. "He's a big, strong man and he knows where the back of the net is.

"He's got great feet and his link-up play, the way he brings others into play, is superb.

"He gives you that outlet when you are under pressure. Obviously we don't want to keep knocking the ball long in games, but if you have to, then he's always there to receive it and he makes life very difficult for defenders.

"He's a big focal point for our team."


The form of Ibrahimovic, as well as fellow summer signings Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, has been key to four successive Premier League victories for United, who look to have found their feet under Mourinho.

Jones insists confidence is now high in the camp ahead of a gruelling January packed with league and cup fixtures.

He told United Review: "There were four or five games we should have won, but drew. But we are not losing now we're turning those draws into wins now.

"We've had four back-to-back wins now and we need to keep going and winning because there is no margin for error, especially in this League.

"You get found out very quickly if you don't perform and every game is tough, especially over this busy Christmas period. Hopefully we can now get another home win to finish off the year."

Meanwhile, United's move for Victor Lindelof continues to turn into a protracted transfer saga ahead of the January window opening next week.

It has been reported that the Swedish international defender could sign a new deal with Benfica - thereby increasing the fee United would have to pay to land him.

That contradicts recent claims that a £38m deal has already been agreed, and he has been handed the No 2 shirt left vacant since the departure of Rafael da Silva for Lyon in 2015.

However, Portuguese outlet A Bola reports that Benfica want to buy a United player in exchange, with young keeper Joel Pereira the man in question.

The Academy graduate is on loan with Belenenses this season, where he has impressed sufficiently to catch the eyes of those at Benfica.

But A Bola's report states that a deal would take place in the summer, rather than winter window.