Zlatan Ibrahimovic was quickly written off as a flop when Manchester United were struggling at the start of the season.
Many critics said he was overrated, while others said, he could never repeat what he did in the French league with Paris Saint-Germain at Manchester. And yet, Zlatan, even at the advanced age of 35, has proven his doubters wrong with an invaluable contribution at United this season.
The Swede’s strike against West Ham on Monday evening, albeit from an offside position, was his 18th goal in United colours – his good fortune at the London Stadium made up for an earlier one against Middlesbrough being incorrectly ruled out on New Year’s Eve.
It means that in just half a season Ibrahimovic has now scored more goals in all competitions than Anthony Martial did as the club’s top scorer in the whole of last season.
Martial only scored 11 of his goals in the Premier League and has added just two more in 2016/17, meaning that no United player has scored more league goals since the start of last season than Ibrahimovic. It is both a damning statistic that points to United’s goal-shyness under Louis van Gaal as well as a genuine testament to the veteran striker’s huge impact.
Zlatan’s impact can also be seen in the fact that United are currently on their best run of form since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. The ongoing streak of 13 games unbeaten in all competitions, which includes six consecutive Premier League wins, is the longest since 2012/13.
Since United were beaten by Fenerbahce in the Europa League in early November, the last defeat of any kind the club has experienced, Ibrahimovic has scored 12 goals in 12 appearances. He missed the Arsenal clash through suspension, while the only game in which he failed to contribute at least an assist was the win over Tottenham.
It is impossible to say that he’s not been a driving force.
Barring that Arsenal suspension, Ibrahimovic has played every single second of Premier League action this season – more than every United player apart from Paul Pogba who has also played 1,710 minutes after himself missing the opening day against Bournemouth.