I Was Wrong. Zlatan Is The Modern Cantona.
I always thought the comparisons between Zlatan and Cantona in a Manchester United context were romantic clutching at straws by journalists and fans who wanted a quick headline or reassurance that their club was heading in the right direction.
Zlatan Proves Me Wrong
I especially thought this after a stuttering start to life under Jose and a nine game drought which leant credibility to my claim that Zlatan may well find the going tough in the second half of the season.
I’m happy to say I was wrong and for several reasons.
Seeing a genuine, cocky, confident football legend get found out by the Premier League isn’t a fun thing to see but Zlatan didn’t just show he can play in the physically easy Spanish or French Leagues, he showed that he could roll back the years and tough it out as he did in Italy, a much more physical environment where defenders usually reign.
The second reason is that we have so few genuine world class players who are actually doing their job this season,
it’s refreshing to see someone on top of their game who can command your attention as you watch him.
Perhaps only Hazard this season makes you watch as closely as Zlatan does when analysing his game.
Then there’s the Cantona link. I was wrong on that too and happy to admit it. You see the way he shows the younger players who’s boss in an increasing football environment where one or two good games for a club earns you the title “legend”.
Leader And Legend
Zlatan, like the mercurial Frenchman before him doesn’t suffer fools, is quick off the mark with a dismissive yet supportive quip to a team mate and by all accounts, like Cantona, will pull anyone and everyone up on the training ground who drops standards by even 1%.
This is so important to Martial, Rashford, Lingard and particularly Paul Pogba who are all confident young men but will happily and rightfully know their place when the big man speaks or talks. This in turn reminds them of how much work is yet to be done for them as individuals or as a collective before they can even be mentioned in the same breath as the Swede.
For Jose the next two seasons are a no brainer surely? Tie Zlatan up to a two-year contract, let him continue his leadership role within the dressing room, keep doing the business on the pitch and keep giving Manchester United “that” feeling back. This means winning, but filling the famous red shirt with the kind of confidence and belief that one of England’s biggest clubs deserve.