Right, cards on the table. I think that Zlatan is brilliant; he’s one of the most charismatic, entertaining footballers on the planet and, when all is said and done, the main purpose of football is still to bring a smile to our faces. There are few capable of doing that like the big Swede does.
Having left Paris Saint Germain, apparently because the city didn’t replace the Eiffel Tower with a statue of him, Zlatan is currently lying back and enjoying the fact that everyone in the world wants him. It seems to be a badly kept secret, however, that Manchester United will be his next destination – and that just feels so wrong.
I grew up in the era of Old Trafford; two long decades where they cast a shadow over the English game, a monotonous winning machine under the iron grip of Sir Alex Ferguson.
No one was ever allowed to become bigger than the club; David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo were all allowed to leave as soon as they got designs on putting their face atop local landmarks.
Everything that United did was geared towards the long term and the even running of the club. In signing one of the world’s ultimate celebrity footballers, a man very much in on his own head-bigger-than-the-moon joke and loving it, United are embracing a new era as a dysfunctional super club. Real Madrid with grey skies and drizzle, if you will.
It’s easy to see why they’d see the dual personality cults of Jose Mourinho and Zlatan as being worth the sacrifice – one FA Cup and one top four finish in three seasons is very much the famine after the feast.
On the back of a season that saw the club’s first post-Ferguson trophy and the emergence of a handful of exciting young academy products, however, there timing could well be off. Mourinho and Ibrahimovic could well have helped fill the icon vacuum left by Ferguson, but they’ve navigated the difficult bit. It’s all three years too late.
A celebrity strike force of Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will sell shirts across the world and help to solidify United’s position as the Premier League’s A-List football club, but what of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial?
The former is likely to find first-team appearances harder to come by next season, whilst Martial may be permanently shifted out to the wing, denied the opportunity to really flourish in a devastating central role.
Even someone like Jesse Lingard, the hero of the FA Cup Final, may suffer if Rooney has to be shifted into a deeper role to accommodate the arrival of Ibrahimovic.
The arrival of Zlatan will be good for English football and is thrilling for those of us with a neutral eye on the Premier League, but for United? He and Mourinho may well deliver their first title of the new era, but decades of tradition would be a heavy price to pay.