Zlatan Ibrahimovic insists he is “getting closer and closer” to a return to action as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.
The Manchester United striker sat down for an exclusive chat with MUTV and discussed being back at the Aon Training Complex, the form of Romelu Lukaku and why he can’t wait to step back out at Old Trafford…
Firstly, it’s great to see you. How are you?
I’m good, I’m feeling great. I’m working hard – that’s no secret. I’m back at the club seeing my team-mates, seeing them do great work. I’m doing hard work to improve and get better and to be 100, 200 per cent able to play, which is the main objective. Slowly we are coming, and I am strong – I feel strong, [taking it] day by day.
How nice has it been to be back at the Aon Training Complex, among everyone again, and also seeing us at MUTV?!
Well that part is fantastic! [Smiles] It’s good [to be back]. Last time I was here, I was here by myself at Carrington. I opened the place, I went in, I trained, I finished and I closed the place! That’s my last memory of Carrington and now when I come here, at least it’s open, I don’t need to open it, and I see my team-mates. It’s more motivating because when you see your team-mates, you joke and you get the feeling of the locker room, you feel the heat, you feel the pressure in a different way for the upcoming games, you see your team-mates train, you see different stories every day, depending on the games and what’s going on in training. You can feel it, you’re getting closer and closer, that is good and very motivating and keeps me going.
What have you made of the season so far?
I think the team has done great things. We opened the season very well and we are still doing good. The team is in the second year of my story with the club and the team knows each other and we know each other better. New players have come in and are doing a great job, and we are getting the results we want. One we missed – Huddersfield – but okay the season is long, it can happen. The important thing is to break that loss with a victory which we did in the last game against Swansea. So, the team is good and motivated, I see them training very hard, I see they are hungry. I see their mentality is different from last year because now they know what they need to do to get the wins, and now they know what it is to win because we won the three trophies last year. They know what kind of work that they need to do to get to the objectives we are aiming for. It’s about hard work and a lot of sacrifice.
As a striker, how impressed have you been by Romelu Lukaku’s start to life at United?
He’s doing fantastically well, but it’s no surprise. The only difference now is that he’s doing it at a big club, with all due respect for Everton and all the other clubs he played for. Now he’s doing it on the big scene where the pressure is totally different. I think when you’re playing for a top five club in the world, the pressure is different compared to other clubs, with all due respect to them. And now he’s doing it on the big scene, he’s showing what he’s good at – scoring goals. He’s a powerful machine. And I think he’s doing exactly what he needs to do – scoring goals and using his power, and not doing things he’s less good at and things he doesn’t need to do. He’s scored around 10 goals I think, so that’s been a big help to the team and as long as he’s scoring the goals I have less pressure to come back fast. The help he gives the team is even better. Hopefully he can continue being on that track producing like he’s doing.
What are you like when you are watching from the sidelines? Do you get animated and jump up and down or are you quite calm?
I’m emotional and I see things differently from others obviously because I am part of the game and I am active. We have our ways of thinking, I have my solutions and I’m like ‘I would have done this’. I see things in a different way, maybe somebody sees one solution but I see five solutions or alternatives. Yes, I’m very emotional but it’s easy to talk from the sidelines than being inside [the pitch] because it’s two different things. All the people commenting, talking from the side, that’s the easiest part. When you’re inside that’s the difficult part, that’s where you have to be more on instinct because you don’t have much time to see things, to do things and to make a decision. It’s seconds, maybe not even seconds, it’s very fast, and that is where you have to do the right solution, which you don’t always do, but it’s part of the game. So I’m emotional.
The manager has said there is no pressure for you to come back until you’re ready but he feels you’ll be playing again before the end of 2017. How excited are you by that prospect?
I’m very excited. It has been a long time, even if we are only five or six months away from the injury. For me it’s felt like a long time because it’s my first major injury and I know what I have gone through in these months. I know the work I have been putting in so, coming closer to the [comeback] game, I don’t want to have that rush like I am by the goal line and I want to jump over the line. I don’t want to make these five, six months look unimportant by rushing now, I take it day by day and when I’m ready I’ll be ready. Let’s see if it’s before the New Year or not – I’m following my schedule and doing exactly what I’m able to do, and I’m very excited because I’m feeling like I’m getting closer and closer. So the aim is, like I said, to finish what I started. Just for me to come back and have the smell of the grass, feel the heat, feel the atmosphere. That for me will be the trigger point where I will switch on and be the lion that I am.
You must look forward to getting back out in front of the fans and being with them again…
I do, I do. When I see people they are very excited for me to step on the field and do my thing, so that triggers me also because when you see the fans motivated for – not a comeback because it’s not a comeback for me – but to be able to play again and you’re waiting for that. You see it in their eyes – they’re triggered, they’re motivated, they’re patient and they’re just waiting for that moment. That is what triggers me also, it gives me a lot of adrenaline, more motivation and more energy to do even more because what you’re playing for is your profession, to win trophies and you’re working for the club. But the other half is also the fans. You get triggered by that and motivated and that’s something I’m looking forward to. I think the whole world looks forward to me stepping on the field again… I’m coming, just have patience.
More: Watch the full interview with Ibrahimovic in the video above or on MUTV.com where you can see more exclusive programmes including ‘Zlatan: The Year of the Lion’