Jose Mourinho says he didn’t sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic solely for his ability on the pitch — he signed him because of his ‘super’ personality and degree of influence in the dressing room.
Since joining up with The Special One at Manchester United, Ibrahimovic has been incredibly productive. He’s grabbed 26 goals and added seven assists, rapidly becoming arguably the team’s most important player in terms of on-field contribution. But, according to Mourinho, that’s not all he brings to the team.
“You have to adapt to the reality of the club, its needs and its demands,” Mourinho told France Football. “It is called being intelligent. The priority is to establish relations of peace and love in a group, to create stability.
Manchester United no longer has the super personalities like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes or Roy Keane.”
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Zlatan’s a colossus on the pitch, but he’s an even bigger personality off it. He’s a dominating character who drips charisma, and he’s the type of player United have lacked in recent years. The days of Cristiano Ronaldo, Robin Van Persie, Ruud Van Nistelrooy are gone, and United’s new blood don’t have the same personality as the old guard.
“There is Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick, who are the last faces of that generation and a new squad of players has to adapt,” said Mourinho. “That is why it was important for me to get Zlatan. In this team, he had, without being English, without knowing the culture of the club, the personality and the profile to be more than just a simple player.”
For Mourinho, the game isn’t just played on the field. He treats the mind game just as importantly as the on-pitch product, and it’s important to him to have players like Zlatan who can handle that psychological load.
“Mind games, which involve trying to manipulate someone psychologically through the media, are a way to create a state of thinking, but they’re most effective when you have a team full of personalities who are ready to take that kind of talk on board,” Mourinho said.
Clearly Zlatan’s personal production has paid off for United, with his fantastic goal haul a testament to that. United have won the EFL Cup, they’re in the quarterfinals of the Europa League, and they’re pushing for Champions League qualification as well. It still remains to be seen if his personality is big enough to help United get back into Europe’s elite competition next year.