Zlat'll do nicely! Solskjaer 'so impressed' as Ibrahimovic gets set for Man Utd reunion

By Sports Desk February 26, 2021

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is relishing the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Old Trafford after being blown away by the late-career rejuvenation of the Swedish great.

Manchester United and Milan were drawn together in the Europa League last 16 on Friday, giving the second-tier competition a glamour tie.

A serious knee ligament injury sustained in April 2017, near the end of his first season with Manchester United, raised doubts about whether Ibrahimovic would play at the highest level again. He got fit enough to make a first-team return before heading off to LA Galaxy, seemingly to wind down his career in the United States.

Yet Ibrahimovic was not finished with European football and in December 2019 embarked on a second spell with Milan, which has surpassed the most generous of expectations.

Ibrahimovic has scored 27 goals in 40 games so far for the Rossoneri, including 16 in 20 appearances this season to help Milan mount a title challenge. In doing so, the 39-year-old has passed the 500-goal mark in his club career.

Milan's lead in the Scudetto race was reined in by Inter, who now lead the way in Serie A, but Ibrahimovic's impact has been seismic in Italy.

United loanee Diogo Dalot, who has played 19 games for Milan this season, may also be heading back to Manchester for the March 11 first leg as he is eligible for the tie.

"Zlatan, of course, I've been so impressed, I've got to say, by how his career has gone," United manager Solskjaer told the club's official website.

"He had a career-threatening injury when he was here but came back from that and went to MLS, then came back to Milan and has really lifted them. They're on the up and have done really well this season.

"I've been so impressed by him, and Diogo we know. He went there to get some experience at a big club and he's learned a lot. He's played a lot more games this season, kept fit and, hopefully, we can give him some bother!"

Ibrahimovic hit 28 goals in 46 games in his first season at United, adding one more strike in seven games in the following season as he fought his way back to full fitness.

His United goals came at a rate of one every 139.1 minutes, compared to his stunning Milan average strike rate of 109.9 minutes per goal.

He has also boosted his big chance conversion rate from 35.7 per cent at United to 45 per cent with Milan.

Solskjaer, whose side face Chelsea in the Premier League this Sunday, may have wished for a kinder European draw, particularly as it came on the Norwegian's 48th birthday.

"It's a nice birthday gift, isn't it? To watch that draw!" he said. "We do have the tradition of making it hard for ourselves in draws.

"It's one of the those draws again that you feel could be a Champions League game. It's good for us to have these games to look forward to. This team needs challenges and we enjoy challenges and we embrace them.

"The tradition and history of AC Milan, it's a great club that we welcome and it's a great stadium that we go to there, and we're looking forward to it."

Related items

  • Wimbledon: Isner breaks Karlovic's ATP Tour ace record Wimbledon: Isner breaks Karlovic's ATP Tour ace record

    Another big-serving display from John Isner at Wimbledon means he now has the most ATP Tour aces on record.

    Ivo Karlovic – one of only two tennis stars taller than the giant Isner – had set the benchmark with 13,728 across his career, the most since aces were first tracked in 1991.

    But Isner has chipped away at that total over the course of this week at the All England Club.

    The American's 54 aces in five sets against Enzo Couacaud in the first round made him the first player to pass 50 in a grand slam match since he had last done so versus Steven Johnson at the 2020 US Open.

    And there were a further 36 in an epic second-round win over Andy Murray, leaving Isner just four short of matching Karlovic and five away from passing him.

    Against Jannik Sinner, in Friday's third round, Isner raced past his target, tallying 12 aces in the first set alone.

    It is a record Isner is likely to own for some time, with 43-year-old Karlovic absent from the ATP Tour this year and playing only six main-draw matches in 2021.

    Roger Federer is third on the list, way back on 11,478.

  • Salah ready to 'go for everything' with Liverpool as Reds star makes 2025 commitment Salah ready to 'go for everything' with Liverpool as Reds star makes 2025 commitment

    Mohamed Salah landed a bumper new contract through to 2025 and vowed to repay Liverpool's belief in him by firing Jurgen Klopp's Reds to more trophies.

    Uncertainty over the Egyptian forward's future had lingered for months, with no clear sign of a breakthrough in negotiations between the club and the player's representatives until a deal was announced on Friday.

    With Sadio Mane being allowed to leave for Bayern Munich since the end of last season, the importance of securing Salah was ramped up, and now the 30-year-old has confirmed he will stay at Anfield.

    He could have walked away at the end of the 2022-23 season on a free transfer, had he not agreed to new terms, but that worrying prospect has been quashed.

    With at least three years more to come of his Anfield career, Salah is convinced he and Liverpool can enjoy huge success in that time.

    They threatened a quadruple last term before just missing out to Manchester City in the Premier League title race and losing 1-0 to Real Madrid in the Champions League final, having already pouched the FA Cup and EFL Cup.

    Salah said of his new deal: "It takes a little bit of time, I think, to renew, but now everything is done so we just need to focus on what’s next.

    "I think you can see in the last five or six years the team was always going [upwards]. Last season we were close to winning four, but unfortunately in the last week of the season we lost two trophies.

    "I think we are in a good position to fight for everything. We have new signings as well. We just need to keep working hard, have a good vision, be positive and go for everything again."

    In an interview for Liverpool's official website, Salah spoke of the departure of Mane to the Bundesliga and the arrival of Uruguayan frontman Darwin Nunez from Benfica, as manager Jurgen Klopp shuffles his pack.

    "I'm so excited, I want to play with him," Salah said of Nunez. "He had a good season last season and played well against us home and away [in the Champions League].

    "Sadio's leaving, and I'm going to miss him, he had great seasons with the club, so I wish him all the best, and I wish Darwin also all the best to score many goals for us."

    Salah had a stellar 2021-22 campaign, finishing level with Tottenham's Son Heung-min in the race to be the Premier League's top scorer, while also managing the most assists in the competition, racking up 13 to finish one ahead of team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold.

    It was the third time that Salah has won the Premier League's Golden Boot, having also been top scorer in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 campaigns.

    He won the FWA Footballer of the Year and the PFA Players' Player of the Year awards, and taking all competitions into account finished the campaign with 31 goals and 15 assists in 51 appearances, creating 87 scoring chances.

    Across his five-season Liverpool career to date, Salah has managed 118 Premier League goals, at an average of one every 126 minutes, a league-best for players who have played at least 100 games in that time.

    Salah had been linked with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, but Friday's announcement means the former Roma and Chelsea forward's stint with Liverpool is far from over, as he prepares for a sixth season with the Reds.

    In a message to supporters, Salah said Liverpool would "try to win all the trophies" in the new campaign.

  • Ekitike staying at Reims unless Madrid or Barca come calling, claims coach Ekitike staying at Reims unless Madrid or Barca come calling, claims coach

    Hugo Ekitike may end up staying at Reims in this transfer window as he waits on a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona.

    Newcastle United have long since agreed a deal with Reims for the forward, but the transfer has not progressed further.

    Reports have suggested the demands of Ekitike's agent have put off Newcastle, while the 20-year-old has continued to be linked to other clubs.

    And Oscar Garcia, the Reims coach, revealed on Friday the player is in no hurry to leave.

    Wantaway Reims stars are said to have a July 10 deadline to secure moves, and with purported interest from Madrid subsequently dismissed, Ekitike's short-term future could still be in Ligue 1.

    Garcia told a news conference: "He told me that he wanted to stay, but if Real Madrid or Barcelona arrive...

    "I feel Hugo is calm. I spoke with him. He will have no problem staying at the club – and neither will I."

    Ekitike scored 10 goals and assisted three more in the league last season, contributing a goal involvement every 98 minutes on average.

    Attempting only 31 shots, his conversion rate of 32.3 per cent was the second-best among players with 20 or more attempts across Europe, far outperforming his expected goals total of 7.0.

    As well as Newcastle and Madrid, Ekitike has been linked with Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.