Monday 20 August 2018

Watch: An odd compliment? Jose Mourinho lauds the 'functional empathy' of Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Jose Mourinho watches Zlatan Ibrahimovic in training. Getty
Jose Mourinho watches Zlatan Ibrahimovic in training. Getty

Tom Rooney

With the incessant din surrounding all things Paul Pogba, you’d be forgiven for forgetting the three significant signings Manchester United have made this summer, not least the inimitable tower of ego that is Zlatan Ibrahimović.

Almost as soon as Jose Mourinho was installed as Louis van Gaal’s replacement at Old Trafford, the public declarations of mutual admiration between him and Ibrahimović commenced.

They had previous, of course, having worked together for a season at Inter Milan, while their mutual disdain of Pep Guardiola only seemed to fortify the bromance.

Then, hey presto, Mino Raiola facilitated the Swede’s arrival as a free agent following his departure from PSG.

In consideration of his age and exertions at Euro 2016, Mourinho granted Ibrahimović a prolonged pre-season hiatus and he only trained with his new teammates for the first time on Thursday.

United arrived in Gothenburg today for their friendly with Galatasaray and the 34-year-old is expected to debut this evening in front of a capacity crowd of his compatriots.

Mourinho explained to MUTV that the former Barcelona striker is assimilating beautifully to his new surrounds and colleagues.

 “That feeling you can have with Zlatan, being with the big ego and self esteem; yes, but in a positive way and when he is in the group, he is a humble guy and friendly to everyone and the integration is good.

“He is a fantastic player and immediately in training we could feel what I used to call functional empathy. People looking to him, he looking to connect with other players - he’s an amazing link player, an amazing football player.

“He’s the kind of guy that, if he wasn’t a goal-scorer, he would be anything on the pitch,” he said.

United face the Turkish outfit from 6.30 and their other recent acquisitions, Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, are sure to feature again after taking part in the games with Wigan and Borussia Dortmund.

Notable absences from the Red Devils’ travelling party were Bastian Schweinsteiger and Adnan Januzaj, both of whom are expected to be offloaded in the near future.

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