Special One and Zlatan: Heavenly match or hellish gamble?

The charismatic forward, who retired from international football after Sweden's group-stage exit from Euro 2016 last week and was finally confirmed as a United player on Friday, remains a box-office draw not seen at Old Trafford.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic - cropped

Zlatan Ibrahimovic retired from international football after Sweden's group-stage exit from Euro 2016.

The marquee signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to complement ruthless manager Jose Mourinho is the latest statement of intent from a Manchester United hierarchy desperate to preserve the club's endangered standing as a commercial and competitive powerhouse. Due to turn 35 in October, Ibrahimovic is unlikely to have the impact of Eric Cantona, the maverick who joined as a 26-year-old and propelled the team to their first Premier League title, setting the club on the path to two decades of domestic dominance. 

But the parallels are unmistakable. The charismatic forward, who retired from international football after Sweden's group-stage exit from Euro 2016 last week and was finally confirmed as a United player on Friday, remains a box-office draw not seen at Old Trafford since Cristiano Ronaldo's departure for Real Madrid in 2009. Others with the potential to single-handedly win matches and sell shirts - Dimitar Berbatov, Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao - have failed, on and off the pitch, to underpin United's commercial and sporting juggernaut. 

Of the other candidates, Carlos Tevez and, criminally, Paul Pogba was allowed to leave, while familiarity has bred contempt for the United faithful - and potential converts in developing markets - as far as Ronaldo contemporary and Alex Ferguson survivor Wayne Rooney is concerned. Robin van Persie temporarily served the purpose, but the Dutchman, whose appeal had as much to do with his defection from Arsenal as any real star quality, was never in the requisite stratosphere of fame to make the required impact.

With those failures in mind, the appointment of Mourinho and capture of Ibrahimovic represents the culmination of United's transformation from the shoe-string conservatism practised late in Ferguson's tenure, a consequence initially of restrictions imposed by the Glazer family's early ownership model and then sustained by the prudence of the Scot in his managerial dotage, to largesse worthy of continental financial powerhouses Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

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