Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms Man United contract talks

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in talks with Manchester United about extending his stay at Old Trafford beyond this season.

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The veteran Swedish striker, 35, has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions this season, and he has an option to extend his contract for another year. However, that option hasn’t been triggered yet by Ibrahimovic and United’s fans seem to be getting rather tetchy about the prospect of him not being around next season.

Ibrahimovic is enjoying life in England and revealed to the Manchester Evening News that he is in talks with the club about extending his stay in the Premier League.

“Let’s see what happens, we are talking,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have an option for another year, I want to do great as long as I’m here, so let us see, there is a lot of time. I’m enjoying being at a fantastic club, without doubts, one of the biggest clubs in the world with a great coach (Jose Mourinho).

“I know him before (from our time at Inter Milan), he’s a winner, he’s the perfect coach for this club. Being a Manchester United player, I don’t know how many people have that possibility but I am a Man United player, people wanted me here, I chose the club, I chose the best English club, that’s the way it works.”

Ibrahimovic also hinted that he would stay by stating he “never leaves a job unfinished” when talking about his dedication.

“I’m a person when I go into something I put my head 200 per cent, and I do what I’m good at. I go in, I go for the kill and I go out,” Ibrahimovic said. “And when I go out there is no complaints, that’s what I do. I never leave a job unfinished. I always go in, do my job, and in the way that is a fair play, a fair deal, that is what I do.”

With offers reported pouring in from Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, Ibrahimovic will likely have those kind of deals on the table next summer too. His current deal at United sees him paid over $310,000 per week but after joining from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer it could be one of the best pieces of business in United’s history if he helps them win the Europa League and/or finish in the top four in the PL this season.

If he leads the Red Devils back to the UEFA Champions League and has one more season as the talisman for Mourinho at Old Trafford, then leaves to finish out his playing days elsewhere, the legendary forward will go down as a hero in the eyes of United’s fans.

Herrera: Ibrahimovic competitive drive insatiable in everything

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Ander Herrera is dishing the goods on his Manchester United teammates while on Spain duty this week, and was asked about Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swede is a fierce competitor on and off the pitch, which Herrera jokes is an ever-present challenge to personal patience.

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It almost seems like there’s a bit of envy that Ibrahimovic can charge into public comments the way Herrera goes into tackles.

From Marca:

“[Ibrahimovic] is a genius, he’s very intense because he wants to win everything, even football-tennis,” Herrera said to Radio MARCA.

“He assumes this role of doing or saying what he likes in front of the media because he does not care, he can say that he’ll score 30 goals or is the best because he can afford to.”

There’s certainly something to stature when it comes to saying what you feel (though on the other hand, being egotistical is rarely controversial. It’s not like Ibrahimovic is often railing on controversial soccer or social issues).

We’re sure there are plenty of players across all sports, casual and professional, who don’t understand hyper-competitive teammates, but we love a guy who doesn’t turn it down when it comes to on-the-field activities. Hopefully Ibrahimovic is the Jaromir Jagr of soccer.

Zlatan: Guardiola falling out “still drives me”

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Time heals all wounds, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic can still feel the scars from his falling out with Pep Guardiola.

The megawatt personalities saw their relationship deteriorate at Barcelona, with Ibrahimovic loaned to AC Milan one year after scoring 21 goals in 45 matches for Guardiola and the Blaugranas.

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Ibrahimovic never played for Barca again, and now has a chance to stare down Man City’s Guardiola in a Manchester Derby which could alter the Top Four fortunes of both sides. And he’s still powered by Pep.

From The Guardian, quoting a Sky Sports Italia interview:

“The problem wasn’t with me, it was with him, and he never came to terms with it. I don’t know what his problem was with me. It is something that drives me, gives me adrenaline and extra motivation. It is normal after what has happened. I’m using it as a positive, not negative.”

United visits City at the Etihad Stadium on April 27, and Ibrahimovic will be extra motivated (if that’s possible for the Swede, who seemingly would be fired up to beat someone in arcade bubble hockey).

The “mature” one: Mourinho says he’s grown up at Man United

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The Jose Mourinho haters among us need to have a seat before reading any further, otherwise you’ll probably hit the floor laughing.

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Are you sitting down yet? If not, you can’t say you weren’t warned. Here goes…

Mourinho says he’s “matured” and is “more at peace” with his career, and how it affects his everyday life as a person and a family man, since he began his managerial career with Benfica in 2000, and even since he burst onto the Premier League scene with Chelsea in 2004.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with France Football, to be published on Tuesday, “at peace” does sound a decent way to describe the first-year Manchester United boss’s present mindset — translated quotes via the Guardian:

“Mourinho the man tries to be the opposite of what the manager is. He tries to be discreet and calm. To find a way to disconnect. I can go home and not watch a football match, not think about football. I can do that. At the start of my career, I couldn’t. I was switched on 24 hours a day. I had to find a kind of maturity. Today I feel comfortable with my personality as a man.

“I’ve matured, I’m more at peace. A win no longer represents the moon to me, and a defeat no longer means hell. And I think I can transmit that serenity to the people who work with me, my players. I have the same ambitions as before, the same involvement and the same professionalism. But I am more in control of my emotions.”

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Mourinho goes on to say the mentality of everyone at the club is similarly mature, which is something that has surely played a massive part in his first season at Old Trafford being so… uneventful, in the ways seasons with Mourinho are so typically not. Without the towering personalities of Man United legends that controlled the club in years and decades past, the fight to stake one’s claim as the club’s alpha male has been largely nonexistent. Even Wayne Rooney, United and England’s all-time leading scorer, has accepted his new reality as a squad player at the age of 31.

“You have to adapt to a club’s reality, needs and demands. That means being intelligent. … The priority is to establish relationships of love and peace in a group, to create stability. Manchester United no longer has the super personalities that were Giggs, Scholes or Roy Keane.

“Rooney and Carrick are still here and they are the last remnants of that generation, and then there is a new group of players that has to adapt. That’s why it was important for me to bring in Zlatan [Ibrahimovic]. In this team, and without being English and knowing the culture of the club, he had the personality and profile to be more than just a player.”

The intangibles seem a real positive around United at the moment, which should spark hope during the final weeks of the 2016-17, but more importantly, for what is possible during Mourinho’s second season in charge.

Europa League: Man United through, Schalke comes back, Roma out

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Manchester United cruised into the Europa League quarterfinals by knocking off a depleted FC Rostov side w1-0 at Old Trafford. The Russian side was so banged up, they could only name four players on the bench, and it showed, falling 2-1 on aggregate.

United pressed immediately, with Ibrahimovic hitting the post in just the fourth minute, and Juan Mata eventually struck in the 71st minute as he touched home a brilliant back-heel assist from Zlatan. There was a blow for the English side, however, as they lost Paul Pogba early in the second half to what appeared to be a hamstring injury, as the expensive midfielder limped down the tunnel in the 48th minute, replaced by Marouane Fellaini. Sergio Romero was required to preserve the lead, making a brilliant save with 11 minutes to go on a flicked header by Aleksandr Bukharov, and again on the final whistle to keep out a fantastic free-kick.

Borussia Monchengladbach coughed up a position of advancement as Schalke moved on to the quarters on away goals with a 3-3 aggregate scoreline. The match was highlighted by Mahmoud Daoud’s stunning goal from a great distance in front of the box, scored just ticks before halftime to give Gladbach a 2-0 lead. But Schalke came back to level things at 2-2 on goals from Leon Groetzka and Nabil Bentaleb in the second half, seeing them through thanks to the pair of away goals. Gladbach also suffered a key injury in the win, with American midfielder Fabian Johnson limping off as well, a big blow to the United States national team should he miss time.

Italian side AS Roma crashed out of the Europa League at the hands of Lyon despite a 2-1 home win. The French club advanced largely thanks to their 4-2 first leg win, allowing them room for error in Italy. Kevin Strootman scored for Roma, and the eventual winner came on a Lyon own-goal, but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback, and Lyon moves on to the quarterfinals.

Elsewhere, Besiktas advanced over Greek giants Olympiacos with a 4-1 home leg, winning 5-2 on aggregate. Vincent Aboubakar scored after just 10 minutes, and the Turkish side got a double from Ryan Babel to put them safely through. Aboubakar was sent off after 40 minutes for a headbutt, but instead of crumbling with the lead, Besiktas added two man-down goals to push them into the quarterfinals.

Ajax topped Copenhagen 2-0 to complete a comeback after falling 2-1 in the opening leg. Bertrand Traore scored 23 minutes in and Kasper Dolberg struck from the spot moments before halftime to put the Dutch side through. Belgian side Anderlecht moved on after backing up their first-leg clean sheet by winning 1-0 at home on a second-half goal by Frank Acheampong.

Spanish side Celta Vigo eased into the quarterfinals with a 2-0 win on the road in Russia. Hugo Mallo and Iago Aspas both scored for the Spaniards as they down Krasnodar 4-1 on aggregate. Finally, Racing Genk topped KAA Gent 6-3 on aggregate with a 1-1 draw in the all-Belgian matchup. Genk had gone up big 5-2 in the opening leg on the road, and they hit cruise control with Timothy Castagne’s 20th minute strike plenty to see them through.