Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Man United star man Ibrahimovic 'heaps pressure on myself and thrives'

By Simon Peach

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says his determination to help restore Manchester United to glory brings more pressure than any external force can exert.

Jose Mourinho has overcome a bumpy start to life in the Old Trafford hotseat to take United on an impressive unbeaten run in all competitions, which extended to a 16th match on Sunday thanks to Ibrahimovic's late header in a pulsating 1-1 draw with bitter rivals Liverpool.

It did, though, bring an end to a six-game winning run in the Premier League, leaving them sixth in the standings - 12 points behind leaders Chelsea.

Frustrating results at home have hampered their title chances this term and Ibrahimovic knows they can ill-afford any more mistakes, but the striker believes United are well placed to push until the end.

"Of course (there is little margin for error now)," he said. "Imagine if we'd got those points (dropped early on in the season), where we'd be now. It'd be a big difference. But, okay, we're paying for it.

"We had a gap where there was a distance to the top five but now we're closer. From second to us is five points, Chelsea is 12. We are there, we just wait for the other ones to make mistakes.

"If we could have won against Liverpool it'd have been a fantastic result but we take the draw and let's see what the other teams do.

"Hopefully they make mistakes and have their own dip because we had our dips. We just need to win and keep going like we're doing. We've got great confidence."

There remains a building momentum around Old Trafford despite Sunday's draw, thanks in no small part to Ibrahimovic making a mockery of those questioning whether at 35 he could handle the rigours of Premier League football.

The Swede has plundered 14 goals in 20 top-flight matches but would swap that record for collective success as "it's all about winning", meaning the Golden Boot is a secondary thought.

"I think the pressure I have all around me is nothing compared to the pressure I put on myself," Ibrahimovic said.

"I really want to do not perfect, more than perfect, every game, even in training. I'm not happy if I don't win in training so imagine what it's like in the games.

"That is the pressure I put on myself and so your pressure becomes like a kindergarten for me.

"My pressure is really high. I'm not satisfied until I get what I want. What I want is to win."

Meanwhile, United's depth of squad means they have plenty of game-changers in reserve, according to midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

One look at the respective benches on Sunday highlighted the point the Armenia international was making.

With the hosts trailing Jose Mourinho sent on Wayne Rooney, one goal away from being the club's record goalscorer, Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini, whose header against the post set up Ibrahimovic's late equaliser.

Liverpool used just Philippe Coutinho, with Daniel Sturridge the only other player who could realistically have altered Jurgen Klopp's attacking options.

Fellaini had probably the biggest impact of all the substitutes as his aerial threat gave the visitors some real issues but with Marcus Rashford also unused, there is no doubt the depth in United's expensively-assembled squad has helped them turn around their season

"Not only Marouane but also Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata put freshness in the team," said Mkhitaryan, who finished the game at left back.

"They helped us a lot up front and we are happy that they could change something in our game. We are happy to have them coming on."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph