Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have celebrated his 35th birthday on Monday but there is nobody more fired up at Manchester United than the veteran Swedish striker.
Described as ‘unbelievable’ by midfielder Ander Herrera, Ibrahimovic’s daily vigour has taken some by surprise at United’s Carrington base.
Herrera revealed the striker, who has started all seven of United’s Premier League games this season, scoring four goals, pushes team-mates to the limit in training.
‘He doesn’t lose one session,’ said Herrera. ‘He trains every day at his best, trying to get everyone at their highest level.
‘He is very, very aggressive and demanding but in a good way because every day he wants to win. He wants everyone with him to keep working. We are very lucky to have Zlatan with us.
‘If you see a game and you didn’t know Zlatan’s age, you could think he was only 28 or 29.
‘You see the way he behaves. The way he trains even before the session, he is always stretching, taking care of his body, so that is the way a professional player has to behave.’
Manager Jose Mourinho puts Ibrahimovic’s longevity down in part to an interest in martial arts — he is a black belt in taekwondo — with Herrera adding: ‘I haven’t done karate but I wish I could be as supple as he is!’
United go into the international break five points adrift of leaders Manchester City but Herrera claimed his club can draw on their own title collapse in 2012 for inspiration. ‘When I was in Spain, I remember United being eight points ahead of City with only six games left but they still lost that title,’ he said. ‘So in the Premier League anything can happen.’
Meanwhile, Henrikh Mkhitaryan will miss his country’s World Cup qualifiers against Romania and Poland after United asked Armenia not to select him.
The 27-year-old has been struggling with a thigh injury since being taken off at half-time during United’s derby defeat by City on September 10.
Mkhitaryan trained ahead of United’s Europa League win over Zorya Luhansk last Thursday and Mourinho indicated he was available for Sunday’s visit of Stoke. However, the summer signing from Borussia Dortmund did not feature in the disappointing 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
United’s head of medicine Steve McNally wrote a letter to the Armenian Football Federation (FFA) requesting the £26million midfielder be given more time to work on his fitness. The letter said: ‘Henrikh is still undergoing late stage rehabilitation from the left thigh muscle injury that he sustained earlier this month whilst playing for Manchester United.
‘Although his progress has been good over the past week, he is participating in limited aspects of team training and is not yet able to train fully without restrictions or play competitively.
‘In view of that I would be grateful if he could be allowed to withdraw from the national team for the forthcoming training camp and World Cup qualifying matches in order to remain in Manchester to complete his rehabilitation.’
The FFA said in a statement: ‘Henrikh Mkhitaryan will probably miss upcoming matches against Romania and Poland. We received an official letter from Manchester United on the permission of Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s withdrawal from training and official matches.’