Manchester United have to get out of the cycle of talking “too much about the past” and build a present, according to the club’s former striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Swedish striker spent just under two years at Old Trafford between spells with Paris Saint-Germain and LA Galaxy.
During his time there, United won the Europa League and EFL Cup under Jose Mourinho in the 2016-17 season, with Ibrahimovic finishing as their top scorer for the season with 28 goals across all competitions.
United finished second in the Premier League in 2017-18, doing so for the first time since Alex Ferguson’s departure, though Ibrahimovic left for MLS in mid-season shortly after recovering from a serious knee injury.
Mourinho was then dismissed in late 2018 and United have not won a trophy since, with the Portuguese’s successor, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, shown the door on Sunday following a poor run of results.
For many, Solskjaer never should have ascended to the top job in the first place, with a common accusation being the Norwegian was elevated to a position he did not earn just because he was a legendary figure at the club as a player.
He was allowed to surround himself with coaching staff who also had prior links to United and Ferguson, and Ibrahimovic believes this obsession with yesteryear is part of the problem at the club.
“I had a great experience in England,” Ibrahimovic told the Guardian. “Manchester United are an amazing club and we won a couple of trophies.
“They talk too much about the past. When I went there, I said: ‘I’m here to focus on the present and to make my own story.’
“But when you have too much it becomes like a loop. You have to think about the present or you should go to a hospital and clean your head.”
When Ibrahimovic left United, many suspected his move to MLS was going to be his last before retirement, yet he returned to Serie A for a third spell at Milan in January 2020.
Again, there were doubts he could still handle the physical demands of one of Europe’s elite leagues at his age, but even with numerous injuries he has managed to score 30 goals in 44 Serie A appearances.
Seven players have scored more than Ibrahimovic since his debut, though only Luis Muriel and Cristiano Ronaldo (among players with at least 10 goals) can better his record of one goal every 107.8 minutes.
The 40-year-old Ibrahimovic may not have had the same success had he returned to the Premier League due to what he considers greater physical pressure, but in Italy he believes he is immersed in a league that is of higher quality in a technical sense.
“The quality [of the Premier League] is overrated in a technical way,” he added. “But the Premier League has different qualities – the pace, the rhythm.
“You can be the best player in the world but if you cannot handle that pace and rhythm [you cannot succeed in the Premier League].
“In Spain, France, Italy, the technique is better. That’s why there are so many foreigners in the Premier League. They bring the technical [skills].”