‘Super happy’ Ibrahimovic rounds on his critics
‘Everyone thought it would not be possible but like always I make them eat their balls’
Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic: “It gives me a lot of energy, trust me. A lot of energy because they get paid to talk shit and I get paid to play with my feet.”Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP /Getty Images
Saturday’s 2-1 victory against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford was a fifth straight league win and takes United to 36 points, 13 behind the leaders, Chelsea, as they travel to West Ham United for today’s late afternoon kick-off.
United needed goals from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba on 85 and 86 minutes to overcome Grant Leadbitter’s strike with a quarter of the game to go but the home side felt they should have been ahead before half-time.
Ibrahimovich had what appeared a legitimate finish struck off by the referee, Lee Mason, for his collision with Víctor Valdés despite this clearly occurring after the No 9 made contact with the ball.
The finish would have taken the Swede to 51 goals in 2016, level with Lionel Messi’s highest mark for the calendar year.
Yet Ibrahimovic was content with the three points and in his own particular fashion took personal satisfaction from the stellar start to his United career.
“I had a fantastic year, I am not complaining. I came to United, my first six months here has been more than amazing. I am super happy and let’s hope we can continue the ride and keep going.
“I feel good. I don’t know how many years I have left but I am enjoying the football. I came to the Premier League and everyone thought it would not be possible but like always I make them eat their balls.”
Asked to explain this, the 35-year-old said: “It gives me a lot of energy, trust me. A lot of energy because they get paid to talk shit and I get paid to play with my feet, that’s how I enjoy it.”
United are trying for a sixth consecutive league victory for the first time in two seasons.
Ibrahimovich said of their form: “With every game you win, you get confidence. We haven’t lost for the last 10 games [actually 12], and it was important to win against Middlesbrough. We had to work hard for the win and the important thing is the three points because we want to come closer to the top and we are losing 1-0 and we should have had the goal, I scored.
“Why he whistled, I don’t know. At first he gave the goal and after 30 seconds, he changed his mind. There was not a lot to speak to him because if you open your mouth, they give you a yellow and I was like: ‘Listen, you just took a goal from me, and now you want to give me a yellow card.’
“That was not important – to level with Messi. The important thing was to win. For me the win is the same if I would beat Messi or not. Hopefully we can still win the league. We had our dips and we were winning and losing and winning and losing and hopefully the other teams can do some mistakes and we can close the gap closer and come into the top four.”
Ibrahimovic has never played two matches in 48 hours, as he will do when lining up at West Ham, with Mourinho confirming he will start there.
“It’s crazy,” said the centre-forward. “There is no superman, there is no strength that can recover from a game so fast and I cannot do nothing about it. If the coach wants me to play, I will play. But let’s be realistic, from a game you need to recover two or three days.”
A happy Mourinho said: “Zlatan’s disappointed because in this moment he should be celebrating being top scorer in 2016. He did it. But he will start on Monday. You can tell [Slaven] Bilic that.”
West Ham are 12th with 22 points after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Leicester City, who visit a Middlesbrough side four points above the drop zone today.
Leadbitter said: “We have a little league table that we want to finish top of, and that has to be our priority this season. One of the teams in that league is coming up on Monday at home and we have to look forward.”