Michael Carrick has said the impact of 26 goal Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the main reasons for Manchester United’s improvement under Jose Mourinho this season.
“Zlatan’s a big, confident personality,” said Carrick, who has been awarded a June 4 testimonial after 11 years and 443 games at United.
“He’s got a belief which rubs off on the players, especially the younger ones. We’ve probably not had that type of character in the squad for some time. That’s not something that anyone could be because you have to be yourself.
“It’s not like I could turn into Zlatan or Wayne. You need different personalities and Zlatan and Paul Pogba have ticked two more boxes. I’m quite quiet and calm, Zlatan brings something different, he’s more outspoken.”
Speaking to the new issue of the United We Stand fanzine, Carrick, 35, added: "Zlatan has been around, he's got a lot of experience and I have the utmost respect for him. He's played 40 games this season at his age. My age! He's come to a new country and proved himself instantly, scoring all those goals. He really looks after himself and he's a good laugh. He's funny, he has cutting comments and he can destroy people at times."
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United entertain 14th-placed Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Saturday, knowing a repeat of the win on the opening day of the season will lift Mourinho’s side out of sixth for the first time in four months. United would either move above Arsenal, in fourth, or Liverpool, in fifth. That pair meet at Anfield in Saturday’s late kick-off.
United, who lifted the Community Shield against Leicester City in August and the League Cup against Southampton at Wembley last Sunday, haven’t lost in 16 league games since a 4-0 defeat at Chelsea in October. They are also in the Europa League last 16 and face an awkward trip to Russia to play Rostov on Thursday. Four days later, they play an even tougher match at Chelsea in the FA Cup sixth round.
The success of Mourinho’s side in the cups means a fixture pile up is looming, with the team set to play twice a week until the end of the season after the March international break.
But the squad is deep, injuries are minimal and Carrick is convinced that United are in a better place after three below par seasons following the departure of Alex Ferguson.
“There’s a feeling that we’re getting somewhere,” he said. “We bought those players in the summer with big personalities and quality on the pitch. It gives you a feeling that we want to be back with the big hitters where we should be.
“As the season has gone on you can feel something rumbling. We’re still a bit off it at the minute, but we’ve been on a great run. That should have involved more wins but for those stupid draws at Old Trafford (against Burnley, Stoke City, West Ham, Arsenal and Hull City).
“Our performances have been pretty good and we’re pleased with them to move forward.”
After featuring sporadically at the start of the season, Carrick has played an important role as a defensive midfielder. He’s not sure what he’s going to do once his contract is up at the end of this season, but media work could be an area of interest.
“I quite enjoy media work and it’ll depend what opportunities come up,” he said. “I’m doing my coaching badges and have done my A licence. I’m trying to cover all bases and keep my options open.
“Sometimes I think about management and using my experience. Other times I think ‘it’s tough and getting tougher by the day’. I can understand why players don’t want to do it, but there’s always that bit of intrigue, that ‘what if?’”
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