The re-signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been laid bare as an extremely curious decision this season. While his persona and #brand offers United benefits regarding marketing and social media off the field (something they trumpet as being better at than anyone else, although Ed Woodward is unlikely to get a statue over this success) between the lines the return of Ibra is redolent of the arrival of Falcao. What makes it weirder is the fact United knew the extent of Ibrahimovic's injury, whereas perhaps they could plead slight ignorance to the plight of Falcao.
Even leaving all of that aside, he and Romelu Lukaku look like blunting each other's strengths when paired together, and while Ibra's goal record last season was impressive, United genuinely looked a more fluid and dangerous team with the kinetic Martial, Rashford and Lukaku up front.
Ibrahimovic is currently injured, and will be out for another couple of weeks, but a report today by Duncan Castles (a journalist who is, er, close to Jose Mourinho) claims that Ibra might be on his way before the end of the season.
One more lucrative move awaits, with moves to geopolitical heavyweights and relatively average leagues China and the U.S. appealing to him. The fact that these leagues begin in March means that Ibrahimovic might be off sooner rather than later.
Ibrahimovic is out of contract at the end of United’s current campaign and could potentially leave before its conclusion should he take up an offer in Major League Soccer or the Chinese Super League.
The American and Chinese seasons run from March through the calendar year, with clubs in both leagues interested in recruiting Ibrahimovic for his sporting and commercial appeal.
While United would prefer to retain last season’s leading scorer within their first-team squad until his contract expires in June, they are conscious that the Swede’s value in China or the United States would be increased by arriving for the start of their leagues.
Whatever decision Ibrahimovic makes on a mid-season move, United believe the striker will not extend his Old Trafford stay into a third campaign.
So does he take off, or will he hang around to play a bit-part in pursuit of the medal that has eluded him in his great career: the Champions League?