Phil Neville: Ibrahimovic is Manchester United’s modern-day Eric Cantona
Phil Neville believes Zlatan Ibrahimovic is Manchester United’s modern-day Eric Cantona after his EFL Cup-winning exploits.
Having clinched the Community Shield with a late header against Leicester in August, the Swede repeated the feat at Wembley on Sunday, stooping in the 87th minute as United overcame Southampton to seal their fifth League Cup triumph.
Ibrahimovic also netted the opener in the 3-2 victory, which saw Jose Mourinho become the first Manchester United manager to win a major honour in their first season at the club.
After his two-goal cameo, Neville likened Ibrahimovic’s influence to that of United legend Cantona, who played a key role in the club’s rise to the top of English football in the 90s.
“Zlatan is the leader,” Neville, who won 14 honours during a glittering 10-year spell at Old Trafford, told Sky Sports. “I know Wayne Rooney lifted the cup but Zlatan is the leader on the pitch.
“When Cantona walked onto the pitch with his collar up he looked like he loved Old Trafford, he had the aura and confidence. Ibrahimovic is the same.
“Sometimes you hate people who have that much arrogance but I love that because he delivers at the same time.
“When you’re a manager and join a new club you need one player who sings off your hymn sheet. Ibrahimovic is that player for Mourinho.”
Despite racing into a two-goal lead, thanks to Ibrahimovic’s opener and Jesse Lingard’s third goal in his third Wembley final, United had to play second-fiddle for much of the 57th League Cup final.
Having had his opener wrongfully ruled out for offside, Manolo Gabbiadini’s double hauled the Saints level, and Claude Puel’s men dominated for large parts.
But Neville highlighted Ibrahimovic’s crucial contribution when it mattered most, as the Swede defended a Southampton corner before rounding off a counter to win the trophy.
“United were awful at defending set pieces but Ibrahimovic was there heading clear in the build up to his goal,” he added.
“He wins the first header and makes up a lot of ground to be the first point of the counter attack.
“With Southampton all over the place, he finds himself on the right and then gets himself in the box and produces a trademark finish.”
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