Zlatan Ibrahimovic backs Jose Mourinho against ‘personal’ criticism as Man Utd needs him back

Manchester’s football circles are to be believed, Jose Mourinho is considering a move to take Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to Manchester United in January.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic helped Mourinho win the EFL Cup and the Europa League in their first season at Old Trafford in 2016-17, scoring 28 goals after signing on a free transfer.

But Mourinho has not won a trophy since, with Ibrahimovic having departed for LA Galaxy the following year after injury and the arrival of Romelu Lukaku.

Ibrahimovic would not provide a miracle cure for the discontent, but his presence within the group during his 18 months at United was significant, with all players, young and old, regarding him as a leader. Even more importantly, Ibrahimovic acted like a buffer between the dressing room and Mourinho because of his longstanding relationship with a manager he had previously worked under at Inter Milan.

Ibrahimovic is also 37 years old. But 21 goals in 25 games for the LA Galaxy since he headed out to California in March offers proof that there is still life in the former Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain forward.

ow in his third season, he has equalled United’s worst start to a Premier League campaign and come under scrutiny over his relationship with Paul Pogba.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has urged Jose Mourinho to “stand up for what he is doing”, saying they are both victims of “personal” criticism.

“Everybody criticises Mourinho and I don’t think it’s because of the results, it’s because of the character, because of the way he is.

“I see myself also a little bit in that situation, we have our confidence, we believe in things, we say certain things. In our own way,” Ibrahimovic told Sky Sports.

Mourinho has called for respect from the media, defending his record of three Premier League titles.

I see myself also a little bit in that situation, we have our confidence, we believe in things, we say certain things. In our own way.”

It is no secret Mourinho is struggling to reassert his authority on some members of the squad,

Paul Pogba is the most high-profile player in the United squad, but he has so far not been able to gain the respect that Ibrahimovic earned instantly because of his persona and career achievements. Alexis Sanchez, United’s highest-paid player, is regarded as a remote figure, lacking Ibrahimovic’s charisma, while others have formed small groups based on shared nationality or language.

Ibrahimovic says Mourinho, like him, refuses to become a media darling.

“Of course we get the blame, we get criticised more when it is not going good, but when it is going good and we win the satisfaction is bigger than the other ones that are political, think they’re perfect, and want to be no trouble for the media so the media never attacks them.

“That is not us, we are ourselves, we believe in what we do and we do it until the end.

“Some critics I feel personal, some critics are exaggerating, some because of the way he is, some because of jealousy. But all this is part of the circle.

“Mourinho just has to keep being himself, stand up for what he is doing, stand up for what he is.

“He is there because he did it his own way, because he is who he is and don’t change for anybody.

“I am exactly the same, I don’t change for anybody. Everyone out there who thinks they are perfect, they are the biggest problem out there.”

Ibrahimovic was looked upon as the “cool older brother” at United, even by the likes of Pogba — the two players are both represented by agent Mino Raiola, so were already close — and his departure has created a void unforeseen by Mourinho.

United have learned how to cope without Ibrahimovic on the pitch, with Romelu Lukaku’s goals last season replacing those scored by Swede, but the ripple effect of his move to MLS is now being felt off the pitch.

If Mourinho remains in charge of United by the time January arrives (which is by no means certain) a move for Ibrahimovic would not be the craziest idea. In fact, it could be just what the manager needs to turn his squad of malcontents around.

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