Having defied medical expectations to return to action at the age of 36, after suffering serious knee ligament damage in April, Zlatan Ibrahimović is back. Can he still break records with United?
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'To Zlatan' is now a verb in the Swedish dictionary (meaning: to give an outstanding display of skill) and the Blågult's all-time top scorer (62 international goals) left his last club Paris Saint-Germain as their all-time leading marksman. In his first season at United, Zlatan Ibrahimović then became only the third player to score for seven clubs in UEFA competition. What are his chances of setting more records at Old Trafford?
Zlatan Ibrahimović's European stats
UEFA Champions League appearances: 119 (11th in overall standings, level with Lionel Messi)
UEFA Champions League goals: 48 (7th in overall standings, level with Andriy Shevchenko)
UEFA club competition appearances: 139 (21st in overall standings, level with Andrea Pirlo)
UEFA club competition goals: 56 (10th in overall standings, level with Eusébio)
Best goals tally for single European season: 10 (Paris Saint-Germain, 2013/14)
Having turned 36 in October, Ibrahimović looks a long shot to steal first place in the all-time appearances and goals charts – not least because Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both younger and substantially higher than him in the rankings. However, another successful campaign with United could still go a long way to raising him towards the upper slopes of football's Mount Olympus.
Should he play seven more UEFA Champions League games in helping United make it to the UEFA Champions League final, he would go into outright sixth place in the competition's appearance rankings, overtaking the likes of Andrés Iniesta, Roberto Carlos and former Old Trafford favourite Paul Scholes.
Two more UEFA Champions League goals, meanwhile, would make him only the seventh player to score 50 in UEFA's top club competition, after Ronaldo, Messi, Raúl González, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Karim Benzema and Thierry Henry.
Moreover, he would extend his own record of having scored for the most teams in Europe's top club competition (currently Ajax, Juventus, Internazionale Milano, Barcelona, AC Milan and Paris) to seven.
Three more and Ibrahimović would overtake another Old Trafford alumnus, Henrik Larsson, to become the top-scoring Swede in UEFA club competitions: the former Celtic and Barcelona man hit 59 in total.
Another six, meanwhile, would bring him level with Van Nistelrooy's 62-goal mark in all competitions, though he may prefer not to take on the Dutchman's dubious distinction of being the highest scorer in European football never to have lifted a major UEFA club trophy. The only continental club competition final win Ibrahimović has featured in – so far – is the 2009 UEFA Super Cup.
Most European appearances for United: Ryan Giggs 157
Most European goals for United: Ruud van Nistelrooy 38
With 11 European appearances and five goals for the Reds so far, Ibrahimović's chances of making it to the top of these two United trees look slender. Giggs played until he was 40 and never changed club; for Zlatan to grab his European club appearances record, he would most likely need to carry on playing until he was in his 50s.
Having yet to score more than ten in a single UEFA club competition campaign, Ibrahimović would likely need at least four more seasons to outscore Van Nistelrooy in a United shirt. However, should he be up for that challenge, he could scoop a couple more records on the way ...
Oldest UEFA club competition scorers
UEFA Champions League final: Paolo Maldini (36 years 333 days)
Milan v Liverpool (25/05/2005)
UEFA Champions League, group stage to final: Francesco Totti (38 years 59 days)
CSKA Moskva v Roma (25/11/2014)
European Cup: Manfred Burgsmüller (38 years 293 days)
Werder Bremen v Dynamo Berlin (11/10/1988)
... and though he would not be able to outstrip Maldini as the final's oldest scorer in 2018 (he will be 36 years and 235 days old on the day of the Kyiv decider), he would be comfortably older than Totti (37 years and 241 days) if he found the target in the 1 June 2019 final in Madrid.
Totti's record as the oldest UEFA Champions League scorer could be Ibrahimović's if he scores after 2 December 2019 – and he would overtake Burgsmüller's European Cup milestone too if he can find the target after 23 July 2020.
Zlatan Ibrahimović's domestic stats
Best goals tally for a single domestic season: 38 (Paris Saint-Germain, 2015/16)
Career league appearances/goals: 512/319
League goal strike rate: 0.62 goals per game
Target No1 for Ibrahimović is landing United's first English title since they collected their 20th under Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013. Ibrahimović has his own reasons – it would make him the first player to win domestic top divisions in five different countries, following successes in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France.
In addition, should he repeat his 38-goal Ligue 1 haul with Paris from 2015/16, he would become United's all-time top scorer in a single league campaign; Dennis Viollet's 32 in 1959/60 remains the record, with Ronaldo having come closest to matching it with 31 in 2007/08. However, having missed the start of the season, he would have to hit the ground running to do so.
His goal against Manchester City on 10 September 2016, meanwhile, meant he went one step further than Ronaldinho in terms of bagging goals in Europe's celebrated club derbies. He and the Brazilian are the only players to have scored in the Derby della Madonnina in Milan, El Clásico in Spain and Le Classique in France – those three plus the Manchester derby is a unique set.
A less obvious record may already have fallen into his lap. United's 2-1 victory against Leicester in the FA Community Shield on 7 August 2016 was Ibrahimović's tenth domestic 'Super Cup' success: Ajax 2002, Inter 2006, 2008, Barcelona 2009, 2010, Milan 2011, Paris 2013, 2014, 2015, and United 2016. Can anyone outdo his achievement of having won Super Cups in five different countries?