The Swedish striker replaced Anthony Martial on 77 minutes after seven months on the sidelines due to what many thought would be a career-ending ACL injury suffered in the UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg against Anderlecht.
Return feels “special”
Talking to BT Sport alongside show-stealer and fellow returnee Paul Pogba in the tunnel after full-time, Ibrahimović confidently expressed his relief to be back on the pitch as United’s new no. 10. The 36-year-old said: “It feels special. Different day, same quality, so I’m not worried at all because I know what I’m doing.”
He certainly looked like he knew what he was doing in the latter stages versus Rafael Benítez’ side, boasting surprising sharpness and constant creativity before nearly bagging a goal for himself through an acrobatic scissor kick in stoppage time.
“I train hard, I’ve sacrificed a lot and it’s my head that’s playing – my knees just need to follow – so I’m not worried at all,” the charismatic frontman added. And he ensured the post-match interview was ended in pure Zlatan style:
“Was I worried about returning? No. Lions don’t recover like humans.”
Ibrahimović takes to Instagram for appreciations
Ibrahimović, who netted 28 times in his debut season in England, made sure to say widespread thanks via his Instagram page – followed by nearly 30 million. Acknowledgment was handed to the veteran’s agent Mino Raiola, physios Dario Fort and Richard Dahan, surgeon Dr Freddie Fu Ho-keung, his colleague Dr Volker Musahl and Manchester United.
He added: “Most importantly [thanks to] my fans. This was not a one-man work, without all of you I would not be playing football today so from the bottom of my heart, thank you and I love you.”
It’ll be interesting to see if Zlatan Ibrahimović plays a part in United’s midweek UEFA Champions League group stage fixture at FC Basel. The Reds are all-but through to the knockout stages as Group A winners and the Swede was included in José Mourinho’s squad for the first phase of the competition.