Jesse Lingard praises Zlatan Ibrahimovic's leadership skills

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For the first time in Jose Mourinho's reign as Manchester United manager, fans were given a glimpse of life without Wayne Rooney during the 4-1 win over Leicester last Saturday.

Rooney found himself start the game on the bench and could only watch on as his rampant teammates ran rings round Claudio Ranieri's Premier League-winning side.

As a result, the striker may have to accept a slightly more reduced role for the rest of the season, leaving many of his on-pitch leadership responsibilities seemingly up in the air.

But that is not the case according to Jesse Lingard, who says one of Mourinho's summer signings is already willing to take responsibility when Rooney isn't in the team.

Of course, he was talking about none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swedish striker arrived in Manchester with plenty of experience and title-winning pedigree under his belt, but there were always concerns if he could enjoy the same success in the Premier League at 34-years-old.

Four goals already have kept the critics quiet and it is clear to see he has also been a big hit in amongst the rest of the Red Devils team.

And Lingard admitted the former Paris Saint-Germain star is the player all of the youngsters turn to when Rooney isn't available.

“He’s been a leader for the team, especially when the captain’s not playing," said Lingard before Man United's Europa League clash with Zorya Luhansk on Thursday night.

“He’s stepped up and he’s really led the team. Obviously, the young lads look up to him and most of the older ones do as well.

“He helps the young lads a lot. Especially me and Marcus [Rashford]. He’s always there for us and always there for the team.”

Lingard's comments suggest Ibrahimovic's arrival could prove a blessing in disguise for Rooney.

Yes, competition for places is much tougher for the Englishman this time around, however, if the Swede is able to shoulder some of the burden of nurturing United's youngsters, it could give Rooney more time to focus on his own game.

So far this season, Mourinho has opted to rest Ibrahimovic for the Red Devils' cup matches but confirmed the 34-year-old would start against the minnows from Ukraine on Thursday.

A defeat against Feyenoord in their first match has placed even greater significance on the tie with Zorya and Mourinho's men cannot afford another slip-up.

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Wayne Rooney
Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Paris Saint-Germain
Premier League
Manchester United
Jose Mourinho

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