Zlatan Ibrahimović, Manchester United’s ageless striker, hyperextended his knee in yesterday’s Europa League match against Anderlecht. It looked like a bad injury in live time, and indeed it appears it was: Sky Sports is reporting that the injury is likely to end Ibrahimović’s season early.
Here’s the moment when the Swede got hurt:
This sucks for a few reasons. Most directly, Ibra’s absence will be a big blow for United. He’s far and away United’s leading scorer, is their joint-highest assists man, and with his interplay and skill in the air, is a crucial component of United’s attacking scheme. Still very alive in the top four race and in the Europa League, Ibrahimović’s missing goals and all-around game might be what keeps the Red Devils out of next season’s Champions League.
The injury is also disappointing from a more human perspective. Ibrahimović has been better than anyone probably imagined he could be this year. Zlatan came to England, soccer’s most arrogant nation that looks upon even the most staggering of goal tallies and performances with skepticism if said goals and performances weren’t amassed on rainy nights in Stoke, as a doubted, old man. The 35-year-old Ibra responded by dominating the league in typical fashion, scoring loads of goals and legitimizing his enduring greatness.
He’s played as well as advertised and been as hilarious as ever, which has made him the most entertaining character of the season. To have lost that presence—certainly for the rest of this season, and maybe even for good—is a damn shame.
Ibrahimović signed with United last summer on what was a one-year deal with an option for a one-year extension. A couple months ago José Mourinho said United planned to exercise the club’s option to extend the deal. More recently, Zlatan claimed that he had already scored enough goals to trigger a player option, but that he hadn’t yet done so officially so as to keep his options open. The specific language of the contract isn’t clear from the outside, but it might be possible for United to renege on their extension promise and cut Ibrahimović loose at the end of the season if they suspect the injury might hamper Ibra’s game in the future.
It would be sad if the last time we saw Ibrahimović playing at the highest level of the sport was him writhing on the ground, clutching the hurt knee that wound up ending his top-level career. That said, this is Zlatan Ibrahimović we’re talking about here. He’ll be back. (He better be.)
Update [3:44 p.m. Eastern]: ESPN FC is now reporting that Ibra damaged his cruciate ligament and is expected to be out until January of 2018. Jesus.