Paul Ince: Zlatan Ibrahimovic is Manchester United’s new Eric Cantona

Paul Ince shares his thoughts on Southampton v Manchester United in the League Cup final, and how he thinks Zlatan is the new Cantona

Zlatan is the new Cantona

You associate Manchester United teams with presence. You expect teams to fear playing them. One man who has brought that presence back is Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

He reminds me of Eric Cantona and he feels exactly like the missing piece of the puzzle United were looking for.  When Cantona joined us in November ’92, he was the missing piece that pushed us on into winning the title.

He had an aura about him, it transformed the team and the dressing room, just like Ibra is doing now. Imagine if Zlatan had have come to United five years ago? He’d have caused damage in the Premier League. People said he’d never do it in England, but here he is. He’s already scored 24 goals for United this season.

It doesn’t matter who you are, when you see him coming you soon know about it. He got a hat-trick against St. Etienne last week, then the goal against Blackburn put them through in the FA Cup. He’s been outstanding, he barely misses a game and has shut his critics up. Every game he looks fit, strong and sharp. You’d never believe he’s 35.

Zlatan is a central figure of that Manchester United team. He’s phenomenal both on and off the pitch, and he’s an incredible role model for the likes of Marcus Rashford.

Can he keep doing it? I think for a couple more years he can. No one thought he could do it this year, but there he is proving people wrong.

United fans should be happy with finishing outside of the top four

If you’d asked United fans a few months ago whether they would take still being in the FA Cup, League Cup and the Europa League but be out of the top four, they’d be lying if they said no.

Let’s say they win the League Cup and another competition – whether that’s the FA Cup or the Europa League – but miss out on top four, that would be a great first season for Manchester United.

Most fans would also say that the progression they have seen under Jose Mourinho is enough to call this year a successful season. They’re entertaining again, they’re scoring goals and seem more like Manchester United of old. They’re rebuilding, and they have every chance of making the top four.

If there’s one things team should have learned, it’s to never underestimate Man United.

Louis van Gaal was a mistake, the way he played football wasn’t right for United. There’s an expectation as a Man United manager that both he and David Moyes couldn’t meet. If you want to be a player or a manager at that club you need to be able to meet those expectations and win week in, week out.

United have been playing catch-up since Ferguson left, and you can see Mourinho getting them back on track.

“I’d do away with the League Cup – but the players will be getting serious on Sunday”

When you start the season, every player’s dream is to win medals and trophies. They want to have a good cup run and, let’s be honest, they’re usually dreaming of the FA Cup, not the League Cup.

Personally, I would do away with the League Cup and cut the game time down. When you think of the initial rounds of the competition, the bigger clubs are that bothered. They see it as an opportunity to play fringe players, and some of them will already have plenty of extra games to worry about if they’re still in Europe, challenging for the title and the FA Cup.

When I was over in Italy there was the Coppa Italia, and they had one cup as opposed to two. Even then, in the early stages, me and the other players weren’t really bothered. We wanted to play in league games. Then, as soon as soon as you get to the latter stages of the competition you suddenly wanted to be selected and you want to bring the trophy home.

Whoever is walking up those long Wembley steps as a loser will soon see why you must give it all you’ve got to win the trophy. It will mean something to them.As soon as both teams are there, they’ll be desperate to win. For any player on those teams, or either manager, getting a trophy in the cabinet is a huge success.

What do you think?