Zlatan Ibrahimovic

VIDEO: Zlatan Ibrahimovic pitchside describes draw with Liverpool

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has seen plenty during his European career, but this season is his first foray into the rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool.

The Swede joined Arlo White, Danny Higginbotham, and Graeme Le Saux pitchside following Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool. Ibrahimovic scored the equalizer in the 84th minute with a brilliant looping header. He chatted with the NBC crew about his goal, describing how he managed to get down low to complete the header.

[ MORE: Recap from Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool ]

The high pressing of Liverpool also caused the game to degrade in quality, Zlatan said, keeping United from holding possession nearly as much.

[ MORE: Player ratings ]

Zlatan also discussed his career on a number of fronts. He chatted with Danny about how the Premier League stacks up against other leagues he’s played in, saying it’s easily the most visible of the others he’s scored goals in. Danny also asked Zlatan about comments made by Carlo Ancelotti that Zlatan enjoys assists just as much as goals, and Ibrahimovic said that’s been his aim since he was a young player.

[ MORE: Three things we learned ]

Finally, Arlo asked Zlatan if Manchester United was still in the title race, and Zlatan said they are, citing the gap between 2nd and 6th as just five points. He also said that Chelsea does hold an advantage since they are not playing in European football.

Klopp slams “long ball” Man United, says “we had a better plan”

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp wasn’t best pleased with only getting a point at Old Trafford against rivals Manchester United on Sunday.

That shows progress.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Liverpool led early through James Milner‘s penalty kick but they couldn’t build on a positive first half showing and in the end Jose Mourinho and United pegged them back with a direct approach.

[ MORE: Player ratings

In the dugout Klopp had harsh words for Mourinho after Ander Herrera and Roberto Firmino clashed on the pitch, and after the game he repeatedly pointed out United’s “long ball” approach late on and wanted to make a point of how well his team played.

With the point Liverpool have fallen seven points behind league-leaders Chelsea, but they are five points ahead of rivals United. Speaking to Sky Sports, Klopp was in no doubt his side were the better team.

“Very positive performance, we were the better side, played better football and had a better plan,” Klopp said. “We changed the system a little bit and we obviously had lineup problems a little bit but the boys did really well. We played good football. Unfortunately we only scored with the penalty but I think there were other situations where we could have been a bit more clinical. Especially the last 20 minutes, United, only long balls. It was difficult. I think we would have deserved three points today but we only take one and that is okay. The performance was good and you can see it is still intense for us at the moment but still playing good football.”

The German coach has now lost just one of his seven games against Mourinho as a manager and he outwitted the Portuguese coach once again as he lined Liverpool up in an unfamiliar diamond formation in midfield from the start.

It worked marvelously well as Adam Lallana stopped Michael Carrick from playing and the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial were isolated in the first half with Georginio Wijnadlum and Emre Can shutting down the wide flanks.

Without the injured Nathaniel Clyne, plus key playmaker Philippe Coutinho only fit enough for 30 minutes and Joel Matip not getting FIFA clearance for the game, Klopp will look back on this as a good point against a United side which had won nine games in a row in all competitions heading into this game.

He knew his side had upset many people predicting a United win before the game, but the sense of his team letting two points slip was still there.

“A lot of people expected the rolling wheel, Man United, to roll on. But today we were the stick and pulled it in,” Klopp said. “I am really fine with the performance and I know it was difficult after the game in midweek and all that stuff but we got a point and we have a good performance. Tomorrow when I wake up it feels much better than in this moment. In this moment it is two points somewhere, I don’t know where…”

Klopp’s project at Liverpool is in full-flow and being disappointed with a point at in-form United when you are without several key contributors is a sign that they are now ready to become not only perennial top four contenders put title challengers.

 

Ibrahimovic wins libel case over doping claims in Sweden

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 17: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United at The Hawthorns on December 17, 2016 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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STOCKHOLM (AP) A Swedish court has fined the country’s former national track coach for accusing Zlatan Ibrahimovic of doping during his time with Juventus.

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The Varmland District Court handed Ulf Karlsson a fine of 24,000 Swedish kronor ($2,650) for defaming the Manchester United striker with comments made during a panel discussion last year.

Karlsson said, without presenting evidence, that he was “convinced” that Ibrahimovic doped because he gained “10 kilograms of muscles” within one year while at Juventus. He made similar comments to a local newspaper.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundupSunday | Saturday | Friday ]

Though Karlsson later issued an apology to Ibrahimovic, the Sweden striker filed a defamation lawsuit.

Ibrahimovic, who has never tested positive for doping during his career, played for Juventus from 2004-06.

Manchester United: Ibrahimovic blasts “rubbish” critics

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 31:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United scores but has the goal disallowed after he collides with Goalkeeper, Victor Valdes of Middlesbrough during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Middlesbrough at Old Trafford on December 31, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
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Few expected Zlatan Ibrahimovic to bring his explosive Ligue 1 scoring rate to the Premier League, but the 35-year-old striker has come close.

After scoring 38 goals in 31 league matches for Paris Saint-Germain last season, Ibrahimovic has netted 12 in 18 for Manchester United heading into 2017.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Overall, he has 17 goals in 27 appearances. It’s quite the 51 in 50, but it’s enough to shut up the critics. And it wouldn’t be Zlatan if he didn’t buttress his actions with words.

From the BBC:

“Every year the Premier League has been calling me but I wanted to come here when everyone thought I was over the hill. They said it would not be possible but I always make them eat their words.”

“Criticism gives me a lot of energy. Critics get paid to talk rubbish. I get paid to play with my feet. That is how I enjoy it.”

It’s easy to make an argument that he gets a bit more money for the attention he provides off the field, but point taken.

The Red Devils visit West Ham United to start the new calendar year. Watch the match at 12:15 p.m. EDT on NBCSN or online via NBCSports.com

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Mourinho issues faux sympathy for referee Mason

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 31:  Manchester United Manager, Jose Mourinho reacts on the sidelines after the final whistle in the Premier League match between Manchester United and Middlesbrough at Old Trafford on December 31, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
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Jose Mourinho admitted that defeating good friend Aitor Karanka‘s Middlesbrough was a little bittersweet, but his talk turned a bit cheeky when asked about referee Lee Mason.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 2-1 Boro ]

The official in question canceled Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s high-footed goal in bizarre fashion, a decision that could’ve cost ascendant Manchester United when Grand Leadbitter put Boro up 1-0.

But Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba teamed up to score second half goals with Zlatan Ibrahimovic also putting in a fine shift. Mourinho said he was a bit sad to have spoiled a tough performance from his friend’s visitors, and then that he was sad for Mason.

“(Referee) Mr Mason is the one that knows that but he knows he made a mistake. I think it’s sad because referees are sad when they make mistakes.”

He’d later say that birthday boy Alex Ferguson, 75, would’ve seen the score line at 3-1. Vintage Mou.

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