‘Zlatan’ is now a verb in the Swedish dictionary (meaning: to give an outstanding display of skill) and the Blågult’s all-time top scorer (62 international goals) left his last club Paris Saint-Germain laden with honours.
In four years in the French capital, Zlatan Ibrahimović became Paris’s all-time leading marksman, while his goal against Zorya for United last week means he is only the third player to score for seven clubs in UEFA competition. What are his chances of setting more records at Manchester United?
Zlatan Ibrahimović’s European stats
UEFA Champions League appearances: 123 (tenth in overall standings)
UEFA Champions League goals: 49 (equal eighth in overall standings, level with Alfredo Di Stéfano)
UEFA club competition appearances: 130 (29th in overall standings)
UEFA club competition goals: 52 (12th in overall standings)
Record goals tally for single European season: 10 (Paris Saint-Germain, 2013/14)
Now 35, Ibrahimović looks a long shot to steal first place in the all-time appearances and goals charts – not least because Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both younger than him and firmly above him in the rankings. However, a successful season with United could still go a long way to raising him towards the upper slopes of football’s Mount Olympus.
Should he figure in all six of his side’s UEFA Europa League group stage games this term he could move to joint 23rd in the all-time UEFA competition appearances table – though that would require a quiet autumn for Juventus’s Dani Alves (currently on 134 outings).
Should he play in 15 matches as United march to the UEFA Europa League final, his new total of 143 could leave him as high as equal 11th, level with Andriy Shevchenko and Edwin van der Sar.
On the goals front, he needs four more in Europe to break into the top ten – climbing alongside Eusébio on 56. Another seven would take him level with Henrik Larsson as the highest-scoring Swede in European football. And should he eclipse his own single-season record and hit 11, he would be on a par with one-time Old Trafford favourite Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Attaining that 62-goal mark may also mean he shares the Dutchman’s dubious distinction of being the highest scorer in European football never to have lifted a major UEFA club trophy. The only continental club competition Ibrahimović has won – so far – is the 2009 UEFA Super Cup.
That could change in the campaign ahead, and further milestones may loom in 2017/18. Should United qualify for the UEFA Champions League, Ibrahimović can extend his own record of having scored for the most teams in Europe’s top club competition (Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain) to seven.
Zlatan Ibrahimović’s UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League stats
UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League appearances: 6
UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League goals: 3
Ibrahimović made the last of his four UEFA Cup outings for Ajax on 1 November 2001, in a 1-0 second-round home defeat by København, aged 20 years and 29 days. In the course of those four fixtures he scored twice (home and away against Apollon Limassol in the first round, with both efforts coming when he was still 19).
Add on 127 minutes (and one goal) in the UEFA Europa League for United and Ibrahimović’s total in the competition is three goals in 400 minutes (a goal every 133 minutes or so). Decent, but if he is to replicate countryman Henrik Larsson’s competition record of 40 goals, that would require him to play and score at the same rate for another 5,333 minutes in the competition. That is the equivalent of around 59 more UEFA Europa League games, which would most likely demand at least four more seasons in the tournament.
Even so, there is definitely lower-hanging fruit to be picked. United have played just 30 matches in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League – the one major UEFA competition they have not won. Wayne Rooney is their all-time top European scorer with 37 goals, but it would not take too many great nights for Ibrahimović to surpass the club record of three goals in the competition that the captain shares with Arnold Mühren.
United’s all-time top UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League scorers
3 Arnold Mühren, Wayne Rooney
2 Memphis Depay, Javier Hernández, Mark Hughes, Sammy McIlroy, Marcus Rashford, Bryan Robson, Gordon Strachan, own goals (Gary McGinnis, Dundee Utd, and Nikolay Bodurov, Midtjylland)
1 Arthur Albiston, Alan Brazil, Ander Herrera, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Anthony Martial, Peter Schmeichel, Paul Scholes, Frank Stapleton, Ashley Young
Most European appearances for United: Ryan Giggs 157
Most European goals for United: Wayne Rooney 37
Zlatan Ibrahimović’s domestic stats
Record goals tally for a single domestic season: 38 (Paris Saint-Germain, 2015/16)
Career league appearances/goals: 491/306
League goal strike rate: 0.62 goals per game
Winning the UEFA Europa League – and becoming only the fifth side to land every major UEFA club prize – could be a major fillip for United in their first term under José Mourinho, yet target No1 is scooping the English title for the first time since they collected their 20th under Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013. Ibrahimović has his own reasons to strive for that crown – it would make him the first player to win domestic top divisions in five different countries, following successes in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France.
In addition, should he repeat his 38-goal Ligue 1 haul with Paris last season, he would become United’s all-time top scorer in a single league campaign; Dennis Viollet’s 32 in 1959/60 remains the record, with Ronaldo having come closest to matching it with 31 in 2007/08. With the Swede having netted four in his opening seven Premier League games, he needs to raise his game a little to threaten that total.
His goal against Manchester City on 10 September, meanwhile, meant he went one step further than Ronaldinho in terms of bagging goals in Europe’s celebrated club derbies. He and the Brazilian are the only players to have scored in the Derby della Madonnina in Milan, El Clásico in Spain and Le Classique in France – those three plus the Manchester derby is a unique set.
A less obvious record may already have fallen into his lap. United’s 2-1 victory against Leicester in the FA Community Shield on 7 August was Ibrahimović’s tenth domestic ‘Super Cup’ success: Ajax 2002, Inter 2006, 2008, Barcelona 2009, 2010, Milan 2011, Paris 2013, 2014, 2015, and United 2016. Can anyone outdo his achievement of having won Super Cups in five different countries?