Belfast Telegraph

Zlatan Ibrahimovic the perfect fit for United with new deal likely

West Brom 0 Man Utd 2

By Bill Howell

ABBA, Vikings, Ikea, Volvo and Bjorn Borg - when Swedes enter Britain they leave a lasting mark.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is less than six months into his one-year contract at Manchester United but the signs are he is ready to stay. In fact, he is only half-joking when he says he can play until he is 50.

Such is both the width of his smile and his influence on Jose Mourinho's side right now that it's difficult to see either of them opting to go solo next summer.

The 35-year-old notched the 15th and 16th goals of a remarkable season in a comfortable 2-0 victory over an out-of-sorts West Brom who felt the full force of the striker's power - both the good and the bad.

Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley was outfoxed for the opener when a sly nudge knocked him out of his stride to allow Ibrahimovich a simple header from Jesse Lingard's cross. Then right-back Craig Dawson was flattened by an X-rated shoulder charge more at home in a wrestling ring that left him seeing stars.

More tough luck followed for Dawson, who was playing for Radcliffe Borough when Ibrahimovic was at Barcelona just seven years back, as he deflected the striker's shot into the net for the killer second.

Many doubted Ibrahimovic's physical ability to blend into the rough-and-tumble English game in the twilight of a fabulous career.

"The only thing that surprises me is that the game is not controlled by one team - back and front, back and front, and the rhythm is high," he said. "I knew about this and I was prepared for it. This is how the game is and you have to adapt your body to it.

"I've played in different championships, different countries and you need to adapt your body to the game and the way it's played here.

"I'm settling in. I feel happy, I feel good. Even if I'm 35, in my mind I'm 20. I think I could play also at 50, but it won't be down to me. The older I get, the better I get - like red wine! I'm a perfect example of that. The older I get, the better I play."

Defender Phil Jones says Ibrahimovic is the ideal role model for the club's youngsters: "He looks after his body, he looks after himself, he's a true professional and anyone growing up, looking for how a top professional should behave, he is the ideal player.

"He's enjoying it. He's strong, he scores goals and you could see his quality.

"It's great that he's scoring so many goals. It's what we need. Maybe we need some more players to chip in but he's doing well for us and long may it continue."

Jones added: "He's a great lad off the pitch and he helps the young lads out. They look up to him and you can see how well he's done."

Albion keeper Ben Foster kept Wayne Rooney waiting to join Bobby Charlton on 249 United goals with a fine save to tip a fiercely struck half-volley onto the crossbar.

"It's a big goal for him," Foster said. "As we were walking off he said 'Any chance?' kind of thing.

"He wants that goal. He said against Palace last week the goalie was making worldies but Wayne will get plenty more goals. He hit it well to be fair.

"He might not have the pace that he had five or six years ago but who has? He'd walk into any other team in the league."

The former United goalkeeper was impressed by Ibrahimovich.

Foster said: "Money you pay for players like that, that's what you get."

WEST BROM: Foster, Dawson (Morrison, 74 mins), McAuley, Olsson, Nyom, Yacob, Fletcher; Brunt, Chadli (Leko, 82 mins), Phillips (Robson-Kanu, 82 mins), Rondon. Unused subs: Myhill, Galloway, Gardner, McClean.

MAN UTD: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Darmian, Carrick, Herrera (Smalling, 90 mins), Lingard (Rashford, 77 mins), Pogba, Rooney (Fellaini, 84 mins), Ibrahimovic. Unused subs: Romero, Blind, Mata, Martial.

Referee: Anthony Taylor

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