Zlatan Ibrahimović is getting closer to returning from the first major injury of his career, and he has his eye on a new role in the Manchester United team: playmaker. Ibrahimović was the spearhead of United’s attack last season, operating very much in the mold of the traditional no. 9. And while his lack of mobility in the twilight of his career could occasionally stifle the team’s fluidity, his hold up play is still arguably the best in world football.
But with Romelu Lukaku now a more dynamic presence up front - and the new occupant of the no. 9 shirt - Ibrahimović has hinted that his new no. 10 squad number will be reflective of his role in the team this season.
“To me, number 10 is the star. The one who makes the difference, gets noticed, wins the matches and is the leader.
“And I see myself in that position but it is not something that is given to you, it is just something you are, that's just the way it is.”
These quotes are from a promotional video with Volvo, meant to highlight a new program that Zlatan and the Swedish FA have just launched called - wait for it - Number 10! So this is likely to be less meaningful than it seems at first glance.
That said, Ibrahimović has the technical ability and short passing game to operate in that deeper role, and did so to great effect often at Paris Saint-Germain. The current occupant of the no. 10 position, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, has been badly out of form for weeks, and Juan Mata almost exclusively starts (nominally, at least) on the right these days.
Ibrahimović may bristle at the idea of being a back-up to Lukaku, even though he has been gracious in giving Lukaku his blessing to wear the no. 9 shirt and also praising his performances for the team. There will be ample opportunity over the holiday schedule to rotate both men up front, but eventually, Ibrahimović’s default role in the team will have to be decided. What do you say readers? Lukaku’s back-up, or first-choice no. 10?
What role should Ibrahimović play when he returns?
This poll is closed
Back-up no. 9
First choice no. 10