With Zlatan Ibrahimovic weeks away from returning to Manchester United, one question that’s being asked is: do they really need him?
Six wins out of seven in the Premier League suggests not, especially with Romelu Lukaku in such sublime form up top.
The Belgian was effectively brought in as Ibrahimovic’s replacement over the summer and has scored seven goals in as many league games.
Moreover, United are the Premier League’s second top scorers with 21 goals – they’re certainly not struggling on the goalscoring front.
So there’s evidence to suggest United don’t really need Ibrahimovic at the moment, but it’s his experience that will prove most important.
Ibrahimovic turns 36 later this month, yet he remains a world-class striker and can help Lukaku realise his true potential at United.
Another topic up for discussion is how Jose Mourinho will choose between the Swede and Lukaku when the former returns.
The Portuguese hinted at rotating the two earlier this week, saying: “Look, without Zlatan we cannot rotate the striker, especially because Marcus Rashford is playing also in other positions.
“So until the moment we have Zlatan we cannot think about giving rest to our No.9, the same way we give in other positions. We cannot do that.”
Ibrahimovic’s recovery from a knee injury suffered in April has been nothing short of miraculous, seeing as he was originally ruled out for nine months.
However, while United fans are eager to see the ‘God of Manchester’ return, the surgeon who operated on his knee has sent a warning.
According to Doctor Freddie Fu, Ibrahimovic must be eased back into action otherwise there could be “bad consequences”.
“I have no worry about his injury as it always takes time to fully recover,” Fu told the South China Morning Post, per Manchester Evening News.
“In fact, the EPL has just started and I am sure Manchester United would not need the player urgently for any crucial game either in the league or European competitions.
“He is very strong but soccer is still a combative sport. As a doctor, of course I want to see him return as slow as possible, only when he is fully fit for the game.
“There have been many cases of a player returning prematurely with bad consequences.”
Fu went on to explain how impressed he’s been by Ibrahimovic’s recovery, saying that the striker is one of the strongest players he’s ever operated on.
“I have treated almost 60 professional players and Ibrahimovic is certainly one of the best and strongest players I have ever operated on,” he added.
“He has a very strong attitude. Even before the operation, he firmly believed he would come back in his soccer career and would not retire just because of the injury.
“And when we examined his knee, other than the ligament injuries he sustained, the joint, the muscles and other parts of his knee are all in top-notch condition, just like those of a 15-year-old boy and not a soccer player who has been [subjecting his knee to the rigours of] fierce physical competition for so many years.
“His operation went very smoothly.”