Zlatan Ibrahimovic is Manchester United’s new Roy Keane, not Paul Pogba, argues Graeme Souness.
The imminent signing of Pogba only represents a value deal for Manchester United if he has been bought for the long-term, insists the former midfield powerhouse, who was not particularly impressed with Pogba’s contribution to the French engine room during Euro 2016.
“Pogba is far from being the finished article — £100m (€117m) is too much,” said Souness, at the London launch of Sky Sports’ Premier League coverage for the new season.
“Normally it’s the guys who put the ball in the net who go for the big money because it is the hardest job in football.
“I think he is a young man with enormous potential. But will he fulfil that?
“It’s not his fault he’s going for that kind of money. But for me he’s a long way from being the finished article.
“I’d be wanting more from him. But the Premier League is awash with money and he has gone to Man United who, like Barcelona, like Man City, like Real Madrid, like Chelsea used to, all have to pay a premium.
“But on the strength of just watching the Euros, you are not going to pay £100m on the strength of what you saw.
“I think they are buying that guy for the next seven or eight years. It’s not all about next year for Paul Pogba.”
Souness insists the United dressing room badly needs a leader who will demand higher standards, but feels Ibrahimovic will be that player, rather than Pogba.
“I think the two biggest influences next year are the manager and Ibrahimovic. I think you saw Ibrahimovic (in the Community Shield) not have a very good game but being the difference.
“It’s not just what he’s going to give them over 90 minutes, it’s what he is going to give them around the place.
“He has got an aura about him, he has got a confidence that he can back up and has backed up in his career so far.
“At 34, he is not like he was when he was 27 or 28, but I imagine he will stir that dressing room in a very, very positive way next year.
“Roy Keane in that dressing room for the last two years, he would have been stirring it up.
“He wouldn’t have been accepting the players too readily accepting disappointment. He’d have got after them. And I expect Ibra to be that man now.”
Souness’s fellow Sky pundit Paul Merson likened Ibrahimovic’s arrival at Old Trafford to Dennis Bergkamp’s move from Inter Milan to Arsenal, though he has some doubts about whether the Swede can be as positive an influence in the dressing room.
“I was lucky enough to be there when Dennis Bergkamp got signed. It does help, no doubt about it. Dennis was a good pro and an unbelievable footballer.
“But it can go one way or the other. He’s quite a strong lad, Zlatan. If the players don’t take to him, he’s pretty strong-minded, And that’ll be interesting.
“You need to be a big personality. But Zlatan didn’t really pull his weight (at the Community Shield), did he?”
“But I’d be looking more up to him if I was a younger player than Pogba, I’m not sure about Pogba. The money is not his fault.
“But I don’t think there’ll be too many football matches this season when they come off the pitch and we’re saying, ‘oh my God, he’s won that game on his own, or he absolutely run the show’.
“He’s far from a Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Jamie Carragher, also present at the launch, is puzzled as to how Jose Mourinho will get the most from his attacking talent.
“I think the interesting thing for Man United will be this Rooney/Ibrahimovic partnership.
“I’m not sure if Ibrahimovic was playing in his preferred position. He might prefer to play just off the front.
“I don’t think it’s a perfect partnership. They both look like they want to do the same thing in terms of coming to feet for the ball, there’s not any sort of great pace there.
“The pace will come from wide areas in Anthony Martial.”
But Souness is adamant depth alone will make United a more potent attacking force.
“For United going forward, they’ve got great options and competition for places. Martial could be a superstar one day, Lingard looks like he’s going to be a really good player and Rashford — it’s hard on him not being in the starting line-up so a lot of people will be looking over their shoulder.”
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