Tuesday 24 April 2018

Zlatan Ibrahimovic reveals how pester power led him to Manchester United

Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic has won his first major trophy with the club
Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic has won his first major trophy with the club

EFL Cup final hero Zlatan Ibrahimovic says he would never have signed for Manchester United if his children and Jose Mourinho had not persuaded him to.

The Swede scored United's opener and winner in a 3-2 victory over Southampton at Wembley on Sunday with his boss Mourinho joking that supporters should "go to the door of his house" to encourage him to stay at Old Trafford for another season, with his future unclear beyond the end of this campaign.

Ibrahimovic's brace against Saints took his goal tally for the season to 26 and his career trophy haul to 30 - figures that could yet improve as United go for further glory in the Europa League and FA Cup, with the Premier League title seemingly beyond them.

Ibrahimovic's deal expires in the summer and the striker recently claimed the requirements built into his one-year extension clause have been fulfilled, but suggested he had yet to trigger it.

He revealed on Sunday though that without the influence of Mourinho, and his kids badgering him, he would never have gone to United in the first place.

Asked about his plans for next season, Ibrahimovic said: "Let's see what happens.

"I think in your career you have moments. I did not come to England before because it was not the moment.

"I came when I thought it was the moment and the moment was there.

"If we speak about the coach, England, the Premier League, the club has to thank him because he called me and asked me to come here, otherwise I would not have been here.

"Even my two kids wanted to see me play at United. I had my mind somewhere else. Before, everything was coming on top of the table, then Jose called.

"I have a special relationship with him. When he called it was basically, 'tell me what number I should wear'.

"My mind was not here. Then my kids started to bump my head and Jose called, then I am here."

Ibrahimovic insists he is now "the boss" over his future rather than his children, but gave precious little away in regards to this summer or last year's alternative destination.

He did, though, insist his United future does not rest on Champions League qualification and talked freely on other subjects.

Ibrahimovic says it is "special" to be confounding his doubters in England and was loquacious when it came to his fitness level.

"I look good," the 35-year-old said.

"I know I look good. I feel fresh. I feel good. I feel like an animal. I feel like a lion. I feel in good shape. I train hard.

"People who know me from the locker room know that I train very hard. I have an objective every season I go into.

"And to reach that objective I need to train hard and I need to suffer when I train - that is how I achieve what I achieve.

"I'm from the old school where they work hard and get what they get from doing the hard work, not like the new school where it is easy to get what you want."

Displaying almost Eric Cantona-style levels of self-confidence, Ibrahimovic vowed to bow out at the top, just as the Frenchman did.

Asked whether the only way was down if he left Old Trafford, he said: "For me, or the club?

"I will stop on top. I will not play one game by being Ibrahimovic and for what I did before. If I don't perform, if I don't bring results, I will not play.

"I will not be like other players, playing because they make a great career and name and they are still playing because they are who they are.

"I will play as long as I can bring results.

"People always say I'm difficult to handle and that I have a different character, but still I won wherever I went."

So would he be confident of repeating this season's form if he stayed at United?

"In my head I'm never satisfied - I always want more," he said.

"I'm hungry to do more. That is my mentality. I'm not satisfied with what I'm doing - I always want more.

"This is my 32nd trophy (though two Serie A titles were stripped from Juventus due to the Calciopoli scandal). I've been in five different countries, I've been in the best clubs in the world and I'm repeating every year, what I am doing. This is another chapter in my career."

Ibrahimovic's agent, Mino Raiola, also refused to clarify the striker's future in an interview with Talksport on Monday.

He said: "I never speak about contract details with the press - I think that's something between the player, the club and myself.

"I think we should keep it that way and just enjoy the moment and we'll see what happens next year. I don't disclude anything. Anything can happen and we will see what happens.

"We're now concentrated on the next cup. This was a very important cup and very emotional for him, for me and for Mourinho too."

Raiola, who has become a prominent figure at United after seeing through the transfers of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pogba as well as Ibrahimovic last summer, claims there were never any doubts over the Swede's ability to transfer his game to the Premier League.

"Knowing how he is and what kind of person and man he is on and off the field, he can do it anywhere," he said. "He's the only player in the world who can be successful on Mars or the moon.

Press Association

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