Anthony Martial is on the rise to becoming a star but he was served a friendly reminder of his rookie status yesterday.
After No. 7, the No. 9 shirt at Manchester United is the most significant shirt number. Bobby Charlton, Andy Cole and Tommy Taylor all wore it and so Martial will have felt a great sense of pride when it was passed to him last year.
But next season, Martial will wear the No. 11 shirt. Not to honour Ryan Giggs, but because Zlatan Ibrahimovic has wasted no time in stamping his authority.
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The Swede didn’t necessarily need to wear No. 9. He’s worn numbers eight, nine and 10 throughout his career and it was expected he would subscribe to the ‘new team, new number’ idea.
Unfortunately for Martial, that wasn’t the case. The 34-year-old, who arrived in July after his contract with Paris Saint-Germain expired, has taken to Instagram to explain how he exerted his seniority over his new teammate.
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“I chose the number 9 @manchesterunited,” was Ibrahimovic’s simple, yet oh so authoritative, message.
United fans will have to wait until next week to see their new striker in action. Jose Mourinho gave Ibrahimovic an extended break after Euro 2016, meaning he missed the pre-season tour of China, and will start a specific training programme on Sunday before joining the squad on Thursday.
The Red Devils take on Galatasaray in Sweden next Saturday and Ibrahimovic will be desperate to make his debut in his home country.
Mourinho's appeal to Zlatan
Ibrahimovic proved that he remains one of the finest strikers in the world last season, firing PSG to a domestic treble with 52 goals in all competitions.
Yet Mourinho was forced to quash doubts that, at the age of 34, he can cut it in the Premier League, a considerably more competitive division than Ligue 1, yesterday.
“Let’s be honest, he (Ibrahimovic) is very rich,” Mourinho said, per the Independent. “He’s made money all his career, he’s won a lot of things, so you only come to the most difficult championship in the world if you feel you can do it.
“If you don’t feel you can do it, you go to America, China or stay in the French League one more season.
“So the guy wanted this one more challenge. When I told him that I had won in England, Spain and Italy and he hadn’t, that he’d done Spain, Italy and France, he thought, ‘Ahh, I want to go. I want to win every one.’
“So his motivation is high and his body is amazing.”