While the wait for the completion of the biggest transfer in history goes on, the player with the biggest personality in the game looks set to make his Manchester United debut on Saturday. He may have not cost anything in terms of a transfer fee, but new manager Jose Mourinho will be hoping the influence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic over the coming season can be every bit as sizable as the man expected to become the world’s first 100 million pounds footballer, Paul Pogba.
Having joined his new teammates for training in Manchester for the first time this week, Ibrahimovic has been named in Mourinho’s squad to take on Galatasaray. Fittingly, the 34-year-old’s unveiling at the latest European giant on his impressive résumé will come in his home country, Sweden, at Gothenburg’s Ullevi Stadium. And United captain Wayne Rooney has expressed his eagerness to begin linking up with a player who scored 50 goals for Paris Saint-Germain last season.
“I am looking forward to it,” Rooney said in a Facebook Live broadcast. “I think he has been one of the best strikers in world football over the last 10 years and he has always won trophies everywhere he has been. He’s a huge character so I am looking forward to getting back, training with him and then hopefully forming a good partnership with him and being successful together.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 28, 2016
Having been given extra time off following the end of Euro 2016, Ibrahimovic will be eager to make up for lost time ahead of the start of the Premier League season in two weeks’ time. But the same is true for the whole Manchester United squad.
The club’s tour of China turned into a fiasco when its second match against Manchester City in Beijing was called off just hours before Monday’s scheduled kickoff time because of the unplayable state of the pitch. The cancellation of the game led Mourinho to call his players in for a 90-minute training session immediately after landing back in Manchester earlier this week.
There has been one notable absentee from training, however. Despite all the other players who performed at Euro 2016 rejoining the squad, Bastian Schweinsteiger has trained on his own and has been left out of the party that traveled to Sweden, throwing his future at Old Trafford into considerable doubt. Adnan Januzaj, who spent an unfruitful loan spell on loan at Borussia Dortmund last season, will also not travel, leading many to speculate that he, too, will be shown the exit door as Mourinho reshapes his squad.
Even for some of those that have made the squad to take on Galatasaray, there will be significant pressure to make an impact and earn a place in Mourinho’s thoughts for the kickoff of the Premier League season.
For very different reasons, there has been speculation, too, about the future of some of Galatasaray’s squad. In particular, the unstable political situation in Istanbul has led many to question whether Lukas Podolski will join his Germany teammate Mario Gomez, who opted to leave fellow Istanbul side Besiktas. The former Arsenal forward, though, has insisted he wants to stay.
“Yes, I didn't claim anything else,” Podolski said on Wednesday. “The media can speculate if they want. I'm looking forward to my season and being back on the pitch.”
Galatasaray is looking to bounce back from a hugely disappoint6ing season in which it only finished sixth in the Turkish Super Lig. The Istanbul giant’s preseason has so far taken it to Switzerland and Denmark, recording two wins and a draw.
Manchester Squad vs. Galatasaray
Goalkeepers: David de Gea, Sam Johnstone, Sergio Romero
Defenders: Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw
Midfielders: Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ashley Young, Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Carrick, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard
Forwards: Memphis Depay, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford
Kickoff Time: 1.30 EDT
TV Channel: The match is only available on MUTV to viewers in the UK.