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Zany Zlatan defies his age and silences the critics

Charismatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been making his critics eat their words for as long as he can remember. And he's loving it.

Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates his first goal against Southampton Source: Getty Images

This extrovert striker is still banging them in at 35 and is showing no signs of resting on his considerable laurels.

Like a good wine, he seems to be getting better with age and there will be many who will wish him a fond farewell when he decides to hang up his bountiful boots.

Ibrahimovic played a key role in Manchester United's 3-2 victory over Southampton in the League Cup final.

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His two goals, his first from a beautifully-struck free kick and the second from a free header coming in 'Zlatan time', with three minutes to go, gave him more silverware to his creditable collection.



It took his goal tally to an extraordinary 26 in his first season in England. And it's not even Easter yet.

United are still in the UEFA Europa League and FA Cup so goodness knows what more mayhem they can cause with their free-scoring talisman in such formidable form.

Ibrahimovic spent the vast majority of his career in Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy and France where he scored goals galore.

But he was not exactly a success at Barcelona in Spain and coach Pep Guardiola could not wait to get rid of him.

He never played in Germany and never won anything with Sweden, which encouraged many, including myself, to suggest that the man was a bit over-rated, someone who struggles at the highest level.

How completely wrong we could be!

Dutch legend Ruud Gullit is a big fan of Ibrahimovic and he said on television during EURO 2016 that he felt sorry for the Swede of Bosnian and Croatian heritage.

Gullit, who knows a thing or two about forward play, said Ibrahimovic could not really express himself to the best of his ability because he was playing with men who were not up to his standard.

Perhaps this - and the fact that he has never played in major finals at club or national level - is what made critics suspect that Ibrahimovic, for all his esoteric skills and extraordinary finishes, was only good against the lesser fry at club level and still unable to lift his country to any special heights.

The general feeling was: 'wait till he plays in England, a country where reputations are made and destroyed, and let's see how good he is'.
Well, we know now how good Ibrahimovic is.



He did not really need to 'make' his reputation at Old Trafford. He just confirmed it with as big an impact on the English game as that of Frenchman Eric Cantona two decades ago.

Okay, United only won the League Cup, which is not exactly the UEFA Champions League or the Premier League.

But Ibrahimovic has defied his knockers all season with his ability to score as freely against the best teams in England as he used to do against the so-called lesser sides in the Eredivisie, Serie A and Ligue 1.



And okay, I am not going to declare all of a sudden that Ibrahimovic is as formidable a star as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo because simply he is not.

But I must confess that he has surprised me with his ability to keep doing what he has been doing for years even at such a tough English school.

Now that he has proved he can do it also in England, I will not regard him as over-rated anymore.

Sydney seek clean sweep over Victory

It is only fitting that record-breaking runaway leaders Sydney FC are poised to achieve a rare feat when they face nearest rivals Melbourne Victory on Friday.

Two of the A-League's biggest and most successful clubs have been going at each other's throat since they clashed in round one of the first championship in 2005.

The two bitter rivals have met 40 times so far, including five times in the finals, and Victory have a substantially better head-to-head record.



Yet neither team has managed to score a 'clean sweep' over their rivals in any given season.

The Sky Blues have an opportunity to do so at the weekend after having won both league matches this season by the identical score of 2-1.


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4 min read
Published 27 February 2017 at 10:22am
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS