Zlatan Ibrahimovic has said the quality of the Premier League is “overrated” but that very few can handle the pace required to succeed in English football’s top flight.
Ibrahimovic spent 19 months at Manchester United between 2016 and 2018, scoring 29 goals in 53 appearances in all competitions. Previous to that, he had played in his native Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France.
Ibrahimovic said a lot of people tried to persuade him not to join United as he could produce a low mark in a career which had seem him win 13 league titles up to that point; but he was determined to prove them wrong.
“I’d had a long career before I came — different kinds of countries, different kinds of clubs,” he told FourFourTwo. “People said: ‘You don’t need to go to England, because if you fail in England, people will always say you weren’t good enough.’
“Everybody was against it. And guess what? That made me motivated. That gave me adrenaline. I liked the Premier League. I found it very motivating and very exciting.
“It gets a lot of attention, although I feel the quality is a little bit overrated — the individual quality, the technical part. But the rhythm is high. Even if you are the best, if you can’t handle the rhythm, the pace, then you will not succeed, because the pace is very high.”
Ibrahimovic’s first season ended prematurely with his knee injury after he had scored 17 league goals and helped United win the League Cup and Europa League, and he struggled to recapture his best form when he came back.
He made just seven more appearances before joining LA Galaxy in March 2018 — and said his Premier League rivals were fortunate not to have faced him when he was 10 years younger.
“I’m super proud and super happy that I went to United — it was the right club,” he added. “We won, and I did what I did before I got injured.
“I had an excellent time — great memories. I’m attached to United forever. The supporters are amazing: wherever I went, I saw red shirts, which was fantastic. It’s a very important moment in my career.
“As I said when I was in England, you’re lucky I didn’t come 10 years ago, because if I did what I did at 35 years old, imagine it if I was 25. Then it would have been a different story.
“I came there and they said I came in a wheelchair. All the people that talked, in the whole Premier League, I put them in a wheelchair. That’s what I did.”