We take a look at the key news stories surrounding Manchester United from the day.
Paul Pogba says Zlatan Ibrahimovic can win Ballon d’Or
Paul Pogba says Zlatan Ibrahimovic can still win the Ballon d’Or award. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have both vied with each other for the award for the past 9 years, with no one else finishing first other than the Argentine and Portugese superstars. However, Paul Pogba feels teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic could still win the award, despite being 35 years of age.
“Of course, there are other players who can do that [break Ronaldo and Messi’s hold on the award]. We have Zlatan at Manchester United. Even he could do it. He’s 35 years old, but the way he’s playing, the way he’s scoring goals, you can see that he’s been in the top level for more than ten years. Hazard, Neymar, Suarez are doing so well and scoring goals.”
“These are great players who – if they keep scoring – can do that. They need to keep scoring though, because that’s the case with Cristiano and Messi, whose performances are always on top,” he said, according to FIFA.
The Swede is clearly a man who is full of confidence and isn’t bothered by what the public thinks, but despite Pogba’s backing he himself said earlier in the week that Lionel Messi was one of a kind and that the Argentinian was so good it was like “playing the PlayStation”.
Ibrahimovic’s performances this season have been the key reason for any successes United have had. Despite a mini-drought of sorts, the Swede has been in brilliant from and has picked up 9 goals and 3 assists in the past 9 games in the league. His performances have already installed him as an early contender for the Premier League Player of the Year award.
Ibrahimovic voted United’s Player of the Month
And naturally, seeing as Ibrahimovic has been in such brilliant form, the Swede has been voted United’s Player of the Month by fans. Ibrahimovic earned 38 per cent of the combined votes in a poll held by United to finish marginally ahead of Mkhitaryan, whose impact on United’s season was recognised by 36 per cent of the 140,000 fans who voted.
Paul Pogba finished third in the poll with 26 percent, highlighting the impact United’s summer signings have made on both the squad as well as on the fans. United announced the results of the poll on their official website, congratulating Ibrahimovic.
This follows the news that Ibrahimovic was voted PFA Player of the Month, capping off a brilliant month for the towering Swede.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic winning PFA Player of The Month at the age of 35 in the most hectic month of football is a indication of how good he is.
— The Man Utd Way (@TheManUtdWay) January 4, 2017
Mourinho hands Schweinsteiger a boost
Bastian Schweinstiger has continually been linked with moves away from United, with Santos coach Dorival Junior openly admitting he had asked the board to sign the World Cup winner. Schweinsteiger was seemingly frozen out of the team earlier in the season by Mourinho, with several figures in football harshly criticising the manager’s treatment of the German midfielder.
However, Schweinsteiger finally played his first minutes of the season in November’s EFL Cup victory over West Ham, although he only appeared for the last 5 minutes of the game. However, Jose Mourinho has now handed him another boost by including him in the squad for Saturday’s FA Cup third-round tie against Reading.
Mourinho wouldn’t be drawn on how involved Schweinsteiger would be in the game, but he did say that the German was now a realistic option as compared to before, when he felt the player was not ready to play at all.
“He’s selected again, so he can start, he can be on the bench, but he’s an option for us. I think that’s the best way to describe [him]. For many months he wasn’t an option; we made that decision. When we brought him back in the first couple of weeks, he was not an option; he was obviously not ready to compete,” he said, according to the club’s official website.
“Since then, he’s been working very well and never an injury – he was ill last week, but never an injury. His body is fine, he’s training very well and he’s ready. He’s waiting for a chance to play and I think January is a good month for that, with so many matches.”
Ander Herrera vows to “fight for every trophy”
Ander Herrera has vowed to fight for every trophy that United are competing for, and has said that they will not underestimate Reading just because they are in the Championship. Speaking ahead of the FA Cup third-round tie against former United defender Jaap Stam’s side, Herrera had this to say.
“I have already played against Championship teams at home,” Herrera said, according to the club’s official website. “Middlesbrough beat us [in the EFL Cup] last season, for example, so we have to respect Reading. It’s a big day for them, they come with, to be honest, nothing to lose and that makes them even more dangerous.”
“But, we are United, we have to fight for every trophy and at home against Reading we have the obligation to try to win, to score goals and to get to the next round. They are a strong team and are high in the table so it will be difficult, but it’s a big tournament for us and we want to get to the next round.”
One has only to watch Herrera play to know that his words aren’t empty ones. Herrera is one of United’s most aggressive and tenacious players, and his commitment to the cause has quickly seen him become a fan favourite. He has even been touted as a future captain for the Red Devils.
Mourinho clearly recognises this as well, and has handed Herrera 15 starts in the league this season. Herrera has been one of United’s most consistent performers, and his shifts in midfield have seen him earn 3 Man of the Match awards already this season.