Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic has enjoyed making a mockery of the doubters and pledged to keep doing so after hitting the 20-goal mark.
As well as the fanfare that greeted his high-profile Old Trafford arrival were understandable questions as to whether the veteran striker could now cut it in English football.
Ibrahimovic has made light work of such doubts, along with United’s bloated fixture schedule, and plundered his 20th goal of the season on Sunday, helping Jose Mourinho’s men swat aside reigning champions Leicester 3-0.
A fine first-time strike saw the 35-year-old become the first player in the post-Alex Ferguson era to notch 20 goals in a single campaign at United — and the oldest player of any club to reach 15 Premier League goals in a season.
Ibrahimovic never had any doubt that such peaks would be reached, though, and still has a way to go until reaching his goal target.
“I still produce and do my best and I get a lot of help from my team-mates,” he said.
“I know there were many people who said I wouldn’t even score 20 but that is nothing I focus on.
“For me, the main objective is to help my team win and do their best and afterwards we see what happens.
“We have some games left so hopefully I will get more.”
Asked if he had a target in mind, Ibrahimovic said with a smile: “I have a target in my head but I will not say it! I am not there yet.
“But I have a target and it is something I have been doing every year and it is nothing new for me. I keep producing.
“I have 20 goals and seven assists. The statistic is in reach like it has been before in other years, except for last year which was a crazy year!
“Everything motivates me, all the targets, all the other critics, all the atmosphere coming to Premier League and bringing more followers to the Premier League. Yes, I feel good, I feel good.”
United may have left the King Power Stadium with a smile, but they had to bide their time as Leicester stayed strong until end of the first half.
Ibrahimovic swept home 88 seconds after Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s impressive opener, with Juan Mata wrapping up a win as comprehensive as the 3-0 scoreline suggested.
“It was a great win,” the veteran Swede said. “Away against the champions from last year I think we played a good first half. When we got the first goal we got more confident and started to play. Then it became much easier and we scored a second quickly and then a third.
“All the goals were within 10 minutes so that was good. It was a good performance. We have missed a couple of games by not winning them.”
The win was a timely shot in the arm for United, allowing them to close the gap on the Champions League — and leaving Ibrahimovic dreaming of a late title push.
“If we had won (some of the matches we drew) then the situation would have been totally different,” he said.
“We are working hard and we really want to reach the top four and the Champions League.
“To be champions it will be hard but this is our aim and we don’t give up.
“It was a big gap couple of months ago but it is smaller now. We have been our own enemy.
“If we had won our games and get the points we should have got, the situation would have been totally different but, okay, now we look at other teams and hope they lose points.”
Andre Marriner will referee the EFL Cup final between Manchester United and Southampton on February 26.
The EFL announced the appointment of the 46-year-old yesterday. He will be assisted by Richard West and Stuart Burt, with Kevin Friend as fourth official.
Marriner has been a Premier League official since 2004 and on Fifa’s panel since 2009.
He refereed the 2013 FA Cup final, when Wigan beat Manchester City.
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