Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to be out for quite some time after picking up an injury in Manchester United’s recent Europa League quarter-final victory over Anderlecht at Old Trafford. And, with his contract coming to an end in the summer, the club must now begin searching for adequate replacements.
An exceptionally unique forward, Zlatan’s presence has been a positive one in his debut Premier League campaign. He has brought skill, vision and aerial threat to Jose Mourinho’s front line, and few possess the traits necessary to succeed him.
Here, Football Whispers assesses 10 candidates to replace Zlatan at Manchester United.
ANDREA BELOTTI (TORINO)
When it comes to the defensive side of the game, Zlatan is not always the most active. However, Chelsea transfer target, Andrea Belotti is an astute defensive striker, one who is intelligent in both his positioning and pressing.
The 23-year-old Italian also happens to be the joint-top scorer in Serie A with 25 goals to his name thus far this season, and his rugged centre-forward play and powerful finishing would work well in the Premier League.
KASPER DOLBERG (AJAX)
An innovative forward full of whimsy, neat touches and mesmerising flicks, Kasper Dolberg, previously linked with a move to Liverpool, has enjoyed an excellent breakout year at Ajax with the Eredivisie this term.
At just 19 years of age, he has relished the responsibility that comes with playing for the Dutch title challengers, scoring 14 goals and setting up a further six in 27 league appearances. He’s almost half Zlatan’s age, but he already evidences a similarly audacious streak.
ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE (LYON)
Alexandre Lacazette is a busy striker, and thus he would not act as a central focal point in the same way Zlatan does. What he would offer instead would include plenty of movement across the front line, intelligent runs off the ball, good link-up play, and an ability to beat his man.
The Frenchman is now 25 years of age and, having been one of Ligue 1’s most consistent scorers for the past four seasons, appears ready for a move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs including rumoured moves to Manchester City and Arsenal.
ROMELU LUKAKU (EVERTON)
While he has persistently been linked with a move back to Chelsea, Romelu Lukaku is also reportedly interesting Manchester United. On the face of it, the reasoning behind this is simple: the Belgian scores lots of goals.
Indeed, this season he has been the Premier League’s most reliable goal threat by a good distance. However, it’s worth noting that he would be stylistically different to Zlatan, offering less in the build-up of attacks and providing more of a direct threat on the ground.
MARIO MANDZUKIC (JUVENTUS)
— Forza Juventus (@ForzaJuve2017) April 24, 2017
He may not be an obvious candidate to succeed a player of Zlatan’s ilk, but Mario Mandzukic would be worth Manchester United’s consideration this summer. In the air, few are more dominant than the Croat, while his hustle off the ball and underrated ability to connect attacks make him a highly effective forward, if not a particularly aesthetically pleasing one.
The 30-year-old has broken double figures every season since 2011-12 while playing for the likes of Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Juventus, and his selflessness could help bring the best out of Mourinho’s many attacking midfielders.
ALVARO MORATA (REAL MADRID)
The 24-year-old isn’t a particularly lethal finisher of chances, but his pace, directness and running in the channels make him the ideal striker for top Premier League clubs, Manchester United included. Comparatively he’s not as technically gifted as Zlatan, but he would stretch opposition defences more often.
ANTHONY MARTIAL (MANCHESTER UNITED)
Speaking of stretching defences, few are as mobile or skilful as Anthony Martial. The 21-year-old has beaten his man more frequently than any other Manchester United attacker this term, completing 1.6 dribbles per game, and his recent outing against Burnley suggested he may benefit from a move inside.
Formerly seen as a wide player, Martial played up front against Sean Dyche’s side, scoring and setting up one goal apiece to help his team to a 2-0 win on tricky terrain.
MARCUS RASHFORD (MANCHESTER UNITED)
While Martial impressed last weekend, in the eyes of many, Marcus Rashford is the true heir to Zlatan’s throne. Perhaps not as fast as his French team-mate – although few are – the 19-year-old is much better in tight situations, possesses a keen instinct in and around the penalty area, and has the confidence and composure to take on the deepest of defences.
All of this, along with burgeoning strength and hold-up ability, makes the Manchester United academy graduate an obvious contender for the leading role in the near future.
PATRIK SCHICK (SAMPDORIA)
Patrick Schick has established himself as one of the hottest prospects in European football this season, scoring ten goals in 27 league appearances for Sampdoria in his maiden Serie A campaign. The Czech, who is still only 21 years of age, is a rumoured Chelsea target, and he has matured rapidly to confound Italian defences week after week with his array of tricks.
A serial nutmegger with an eye for the spectacular, his latest strike, against Crotone, was sublime. With his back to goal, he flicked the ball past his marker and ran around the other way before coolly slotting home. The goal showcased Schick’s combination of creativity and precision, assets that could make him an ideal successor to Zlatan atop Mourinho’s system.
ANDRE SILVA (PORTO)
Another player revelling in what has been a brilliant breakout campaign, Andre Silva has shone for Porto this term, scoring 15 league goals and assisting for a further five in 29 appearances.
The Portuguese has showcased impressive judgement in the penalty area, with his movement allowing him to notch several tap-ins. However, he also shows important qualities away from goal, including first-rate close control, passing and dribbling.
Comfortable dropping deep to receive or running at defences, the 21-year-old has also hit five goals in six outings for his country since making his international debut last year.