They say the best things in life are free and as Manchester United unveiled the reality of £89m world record signing Paul Pogba on Friday night, it was a man that cost nothing who stole the limelight again.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has announced his arrival in England spectacularly. His brace meant Southampton, winners at Old Trafford the past two seasons, were beaten 2-0 this time round. And the result never really seemed in doubt, even before a ball was kicked.
The convincing win at AFC Bournemouth last weekend had only enhanced the anticipation and expectation from picking up silverware at the first time of asking in the Community Shield, whilst knowing Pogba was a United player once more.
Old Trafford was buzzing on Friday and after some of the dross the fans have endured in the last three years, it felt like there was finally a return to the old, propitious times.
These are still very early days, though it’s hard to not to get caught up in all the excitement. United already look like a [Jose] Mourinho side, showing an impressive level of organisation while producing enough danger at the other end to make three points comfortable.
Compare that to Louis van Gaal, who could have been at the helm for another five years and his ‘philosophy’ would still probably come across moronic.
Pogba hadn’t played since the Euro 2016 final, but looked at ease in his new role with new teammates, a superbly composed box-to-box performance marked a quite stellar 90 minutes considering the circumstances he found himself in. The Frenchman, who was making his first start despite seven previous appearances for United, only needed one game to show how much he will bring to the midfield.
You would almost be forgiven for forgetting Ibrahimovic was up top for United against the Saints, with all the talk about the record breaker. Though, the Swede was quick to remind everyone he’s still the main man.
He had scored on his Champions League, Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and Premier League debuts. He can add his Old Trafford debut to that list. The United faithful relished his presence from start to finish as they belted out his new song in delight.
Ibrahimovic’s opener expressed perhaps Wayne Rooney and he could form a successful partnership. The pair had been doubted up to that moment, but the captain swung in a cross and his fellow forward towered over Jose Fonte, who may be a United defender come September 1, to power home his third goal in as many games.
His fourth followed soon after the interval from the penalty spot. It seems as though a record-chasing Rooney will have to play second-fiddle as long as Ibrahimovic is about. They embraced, the 6ft 5in striker lofting over the No 10. He gives his skipper four years, but shows no sign of it fitness-wise.
Ibrahimovic turns 35 in six weeks’ time — a reason many people stalled their judgement on the transfer. Though, anyone who thought he might not be able to cut it in the Premier League will have surely changed their view now.
He has scored more than 20 goals in each of the last nine seasons and tallied a remarkable 50 for Paris Saint-Germain during the 2015/16 campaign; more than the combined total of United’s top six scorers.
His superb self-confidence and assuredness is part of his motivation, yet often described as arrogant, Ibrahimovic is the perfect hoodwinker.
Off the pitch, what he says is all for amusement, but on the pitch it often works in his favour. Only his teammates will get the impression that he is actually a really nice guy, a joker around the training ground.
There may have been worries if Mourinho and he hadn’t worked together, but they have, victoriously at Inter Milan in 2008/09. The Swede brings experience and character to a dressing room lacking the latter, with the manager building his team around the talisman. And with 12 league titles in his last 13 seasons, why wouldn’t he?
“He’s a winner, I’m a winner and we both know what we want: wherever we go we win and we will win,” Ibrahimovic spoke of the reunion.
We are two games into the league campaign, yet on the brief evidence of his United career, Ibrahimovic could prove the stand out hero in bringing back the merriment to Old Trafford.