If ever a fixture was made for striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic it is Saturday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford, according to his former Barcelona team mate Thierry Henry.
The vastly-experienced Swedish striker has graced some of the world’s biggest club clashes during stints with Juventus, Barca, Inter Milan and Paris St Germain and this weekend will lead Manchester United’s attack against rivals City.
A global television audience of 900 million is estimated for the Premier League match that pitches United new manager Jose Mourinho into renewed battle with City’s Pep Guardiola.
Ibrahimovic, who arrived at Old Trafford on a free transfer has scored four goals in four appearances, and Henry earmarked the Swede as a key player in Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff that will feature around 600 million pounds ($798 million) of talent.
“Zlatan was born for these types of games, he demands these types of games, and he usually performs,” Henry, who played with him in the 2009-10 season at the Nou Camp, told Sky Sports.
“Zlatan obviously has a bit of an edge on him now, he’s not the young player he used to be, but there is something, he usually backs it up when he talks.
“He maybe hasn’t controlled games yet, but it doesn’t matter for Zlatan, he has scored, and that’s the impact you want. That is something I like about him, he brings a winning mentality,” the Frenchman added.
“He doesn’t like second best, wherever he went he won the league.”
Henry also offered his insight into how City’s manager Guardiola will be preparing for a match that will surpass even his many Barcelona v Real Madrid ‘clasicos’ in terms of sheer hyperbole.
“He will be very relaxed and sure about what he wants from his players, he usually gives you the perfect plan,” Henry said.
“Then it’s up to the players to execute it. He will have an answer for any problem the other team pose.”
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville, a veteran of umpteen derbies and now a Sky colleague of Henry’s, said the excitement levels had returned to the fixture after United’s two-season slump took some of the sting out of it.
“The introduction of the two managers and I think for United with Pogba coming and Ibrahimovic coming it’s a huge thing,” Neville said. “The expectancy is back.
“Guardiola’s record is incredible and Mourinho’s is incredible and it does feel like Manchester is the most talked about city in the world at the moment for a football point of view, and I would say that’s how it should be.
“Both teams now feel like they are competing for the league.”
“I’ve seen Neymar really well,” Luis Enrique said. “He is delighted to have won a gold medal that was very difficult to achieve and I see him very enthusiastic.”