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How will Zlatan Ibrahimovic slot in at Manchester United?

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is on his way to Manchester United and he is reportedly having his medical in Manchester on Friday.

[ MORE: Full PL preseason schedule ]  

The Swedish striker, 34, announced via his social media accounts on Thursday that his “next destination” is Manchester United.

Ahead of the signing being officially announced, it is worth contemplating one key question: where does he fit in?

Below is a look at where he could slot in at United, as Jose Mourinho begins to assemble his squad (notice the inclusion of Henrikh Mkhitaryan ahead of his rumored transfer) for his debut season in charge at Old Trafford.


Manchester United lineup with Zlatan

—– De Gea —–

— Valencia — Smalling — Bailly — Shaw —

— Schweinsteiger — Carrick —

— Martial — Rooney — Mkhitaryan (?) —

—– Ibrahimovic —-

Conclusion

Mourinho has always liked to play with a strong, powerful striker up top — McCarthy at Porto, Benzema at Real Madrid, Drogba at Chelsea — who can hold the ball up and bring others into the game. His United team will be no different and Zlatan’s arrival will see him be the lone central striker.

That could impact the emergence of Marcus Rashford but then again, we all know how Mourinho feels about bringing through young players anyway. He will have a duty to give them more chances at United given the clubs history of promoting youth and given Rashford’s performances at the end of last season and brief outings for England this summer, we should expect him to split time with Zlatan in that central position.

With United in the Europa League, perhaps that is when Mourinho will play other youngsters such as Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah but if he does indeed bring in Ibrahimovic on a one-year deal, he will play the majority of the games up to as a battering ram. He will look to get on the end of crosses from Martial and Mkhitaryan plus also link up with Rooney in the final third. He is more than just a bruiser and can create in and around the box too.

That is the way Mourinho has set up his teams in the past and it will be no different at United

Former Arsenal, Brazil midfielder Baptista announces retirement

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Julio Baptista’s time at Arsenal only lasted 12 months, but it was a memorable stint.

The Brazilian, who played the 2006-07 season for the Gunners, announced his retirement on Thursday at the age of 37. The former Brazil international only managed 10 goals with Arsenal, but they came in bunches.

Baptista memorably scored four goals against Liverpool in the League Cup quarterfinal, as Arsenal finished with a 6-3 win. Baptista even missed a penalty kick that game.

Baptista cemented his legacy later in the season with a brace in the FA Cup against rival Tottenham.

Baptista, clearly an immensely talented player, suffered from being a good, but not great player. He seemed to have no perfect position other than the No. 10, and most teams he played for had better players in that position. It forces him to play along the wings, deeper in midfield or as a striker during the prime of his career.

In the end, injuries beset his career, especially a short spell at Orlando City in MLS.

 

U-20 World Cup Rewind: Italy tops Mexico, host Poland falls on Day 1 (video)

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Italy opened the FIFA Under-20 World Cup with a bang, knocking off fellow Group B favorite Mexico, 2-1, in Gdynia, Poland.

It only took Italy three minutes to get on the board, as Davide Frattesi found a pocket of space in front of the El Tri backline and dribbled in on goal. The Sassuolo midfielder then decided to fire on goal from distance, hitting a rocket into the corner to give Italy a 1-0 lead.

Later in the first half Gianluca Scamacca also took a rip from outside the box, but his strike sailed just wide.

A defensive error on a corner kick gave Diego Lainez and Mexico life. In the 37th minute, AC Milan product Alessandro Plizzari committed a howler, coming out to punch away the curled corner kick. Plizzari missed the ball and it went right to the head of Roberto De La Rosa, who calmly made it 1-1.

El Tri however suffered a blow late in the match as Italy took back the lead. In the 67th minute, Luca Ranieri collected the ball on the edge of the six yard box and from a tight angle, he scored past Mexico goalkeeper Carlos Higuera.

For Mexico, it’s a rough way to start the World Cup, having to go against a perennial power in Italy and playing on European soil. Not all is lost for Mexico, but it has to rebound with a win in its next game against Japan.

Elsewhere, Colombia defeated host Poland, 2-0, Japan tied Ecuador 1-1, and Senegal beat Tahiti, 3-0.

Saudis, Bahrain, UAE join to bid for FIFA’s U-20 World Cup

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GENEVA (AP) Middle East neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are jointly bidding to host the Under-20 World Cup in 2021.

FIFA says the Gulf plan is among five to express interest in bidding, including Brazil.

Indonesia, Peru and a Myanmar-Thailand joint bid are the others.

FIFA announced the contenders Thursday, one day after dropping a proposal for Qatar to share hosting duties for the 2022 World Cup with regional neighbors.

The 2021 U20 contenders must submit a formal bid by Aug. 30. FIFA’s ruling Council will pick the winner, likely in October.

The 2019 edition kicks off Thursday in Poland.

Putin awards medal to FIFA president Infantino

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MOSCOW (AP) Vladimir Putin has given FIFA president Gianni Infantino a medal.

The Russian president awarded Infantino the Order of Friendship at the Kremlin on Thursday.

Infantino has often said last year’s World Cup in Russia, where the host nation surprisingly reached the quarterfinals, was the best of the 21 editions of the tournament.

Putin thanked the FIFA leader for “your glowing assessment of our efforts.”

Infantino says of Russia’s “bonds of friendship” with soccer “is not the end, it is only the beginning of our fruitful cooperation and interaction.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports