Zlatan Ibrahimovic can be “phenomenal” for Manchester United, new manager Jose Mourinho suggested after the Swede scored an important goal for the second week running on Sunday.
His low strike from well outside the penalty area gave United a 3-0 lead away to Bournemouth, ensuring that although the home team quickly reduced the deficit, they had been left with too much to do and were beaten 3-1.
Ibrahimovic maintained his record of scoring on debut in new leagues, as he has done in Italy, Spain, France and now England.
Last weekend he produced a late header to win the Community Shield against Leicester City, giving Mourinho a first trophy at the club he only joined in the close season.
It would be an ironic comment on football finances if Ibrahimovic, 34, who arrived on a free transfer after his contract ended at Paris Saint-Germain, proved more influential than world-record signing Paul Pogba at 89 million pounds ($115.04 million).
Mourinho had high praise for both in his after-match interviews.
“It’s incredible how Zlatan Ibrahimovic has never won the Golden Ball,” he said.
“He wants to win the Premier League, not the Golden Ball.”
“This guy is more than a player. For the next two seasons I think he can be phenomenal for the team and the Premier League.”
Pogba was serving a one-match suspension and the manager must now decide whether to play him in United’s first home game, against Southampton, when the Premier League introduces Friday night football.
“Our idea is that he will be a very important player for us,” Mourinho told the BBC.
“In August it can be frustrating for players not in the team because it’s one game a week. But in September we have the League Cup, the Europa League starts and there’s international games.
“It’s a real marathon and then there’s space for everyone. That’s why we have such a good squad.”
Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who played for the last quarter of an hour at Bournemouth, is another contender for a midfield place, having also been added to a squad that Mourinho said had been “sad” when he first encountered them.
They looked a lot happier after Sunday’s game — even Juan Mata, who had never scored a league goal at Chelsea under Mourinho, who then sold him, and has been tipped to do so again.
“I know him very well, what he can give and what he cannot give,” the manager said in a reference to Mata’s perceived weakness in tackling back.
Equally happy was skipper Wayne Rooney, who said United had “made a statement” to the rest of the title contenders with their new signings.
He looked more comfortable playing just behind Ibrahimovic than in a deeper midfield role, adding “I’ve not had to prove anything to anyone. I’ve been playing a long time. I believe I’m good enough to play.”