This coming Sunday we ‘welcome’ Manchester United to St James.  One of the bigger games most of us have been looking forward too since going up last season.   Whilst desperate for us to get a result against Wales’ favourite club – I had been hoping my eight year old footy loving son would finally getting a chance to see such a great player as Zlatan Ibrahimovic in action (sadly injured and not expected back until end of February).  No goals mind!

Like me you’ll have seen some of the amazing instinctive goals he’s scored over the years, not least the one against England a few years back.  If you get the chance to read his brilliant autobiography you’ll discover his secret to scoring such goals.  Spoiler alert – years and years of practice of having balls drilled to him at speed in the box and only being allowed a single touch to score.

Zlatan’s book – unsurprisingly titled “Zlatan” is one of the better, no holds barred…I don’t care what you think, this is what I think, take it or leave it, an autobiography of the modern era.  It reveals his tough upbringing and his struggles though youth football, and clearly this has led to his drive to win and his strong presence in the dressing room.

No surprise to note that he’s won the league in almost every country where he has played and reunited with Mourinho after winning Serie A with him at Inter a few years back (footnote to any Mackems reading this – they play in the San Siro which is an amazing place to watch your team play in Europe).

One of the most interesting parts of his book is where he reveals his lack of love for Pep Guardiola.  You get the impression Zlatan hates the man with a passion.  Even questioning his manhood.

The reason for this hate comes from their time at Barcelona together, where despite scoring tons of goals and winning titles, Pep wanted him out big style.  There were a few reasons, such as lack of discipline, but the main one in my opinion was this.  Zlatan Ibrahimovic refused to work hard for the team when they didn’t have the ball.

There was a good reason for this.  Zlatan had met the great Marco Van Basten earlier in his career and asked his advice about whether it was better to spend energy helping out when your team didn’t have the ball, or save it for when a goal scoring chance presented itself.  Van Basten was very clear he says – you let the other 10 defend – your job is to score goals.  If it was good enough for Van Basten who he rated the best ever, then it was good enough for him.

Clearly this isn’t how Pep wants his players to play, so that was that.

And this brings me to the Toon, Rafa Benitez and Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Clearly Benitez doesn’t want Mitro to wear a toon shirt ever again.  This has widely been viewed as a lack of trust in Mitro.  That despite his talent and strong physical presence he’ll blow up and get sent off costing us games and points.

However, I wonder if it’s more than that.  Why else would you stick with an ex-Stoke reserve up front?  Jonjo is surely as likely to get into bother as Mitro and yet he gets plenty of game time, so I wonder if it’s down to two other things as well.

I suspect it’s down to Mitro not following orders and instructions and this potentially undermines the manager.  Such disobedience can quickly spread through a team if not well managed and you can end up in a situation where all respect for the manager evaporates, like it did for McClaren, where he famously couldn’t even order his players off a bus to take a walk.

The second is Mitro’s lack of effort for the team when we don’t have the ball.  Joselu and others will press and work hard to get it back.  However, we know once we get it – a lack of quality up front means we can’t score often enough so we end up drawing games at best.

Whatever happens at St James Park now, I do think Mitro will continue to mature and grow into an exceptional striker.  I wish him well at Fulham.

Like me you’ll probably keep an eye on them and their results.  However, I fear he will be sold in the summer.   Then, for whatever reason, he’ll go on to be another of the legions of players we have had here at the Toon that we failed to get the best out of.  Those we move on, only for them to be successful elsewhere.

Let’s just hope if that happens he doesn’t go on to be another Zlatan or Van Basten.

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  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Park the bus against the Manks, then kick the schitt out of them.
    Rattle Jose`s cage & let him moan about Farmer Giles cows grazing in their half.

    • Wor Lass

      You`ve been running your fingers through Rafa`s drawers!

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        A tale of 2 halves against Palace & i don`t like what a saw in the 2nd half, it had relegation written all over it.
        Leazes positions us at 15th, lets hope so

        • Wor Lass

          I honestly think that Joselu would have been better than Gayle yesterday – with or without a virus. That`s how bad it was.

          • Rich Lawson

            Frankly it must be down to the t(h)oss of a coin,if Slimani is half fit on Sunday he and Kenedy must play with support in the opponents box and the defence show a decent turn of speed tracking back after an attack for a change.

          • Wor Lass

            To be honnest, Rich, if Slimani still has a thigh problem he should just play on one leg. He`ll be better than what we`ve got now.

          • Rich Lawson

            I think you stole that from my posts earlier in the week,my lawyers, Hadawaye n Shyteman will doubtless be in touch for damages !

          • Wor Lass

            They`re based in N Shields, I think.

          • Geordiegiants

            Ha ha ha ha tickled me that, but your dead fecking right!

          • Rich Lawson

            Gayle must have been to confused to work out a goal salute in front of his former fans to put one in the net ?

          • Peaky Magpie

            Not sure if it was Spanish flu or Spanish “divvent really fancy it after that penalty miss” syndrome.

          • Mike Adam

            I never thought I would say it, but I agree with you.

          • Wor Lass

            You never thought you would agree with me or you never thought you would say Joselu could be better than Gayle (or anyone else, for that matter). Or both, maybe?

          • Mike Adam

            Sorry, Joselu.

        • Geordiegiants

          Your right we were shocking 2nd half, we should of came out fighting in the second half, (Im not gonna say attacking as we have no attackers) as soon as Kenedy went off it was game over. Our team is that poor one player made all of the difference.

    • Rich Lawson

      If Slimani is even half fit go with him and Kenedy,their defence is really suspect when attacked in numbers. If we sit back and try and absorb the pressure as usual we will get stuffed ?

  • Rich Lawson

    So he’s still going to LA Galaxy and not coming here then,what sort of headline is that ?

  • Peter Stabler

    Imagining Mitro going on to develop into a player like van Basten is way beyond my pay grade, he might turn out to be decent but MvB was fantastic.

    • Jezza

      Agreed, Van Basten was one of the all time greats. If Mitro became ten times the player he currently is, he still wouldn’t be fit to clean Van Basten’s boots.

      • Mike Adam

        Give it a rest man, he is gone!

  • Malaysian Geordie

    I kinda agree with Van Basten.

  • Geordiegiants

    Ha ha ha, how laughable. Has any of these players who have gone on to do great things played in the championship before hand? MVB or ZLATAN give your heed a shake man!

  • Stephen powell

    Manchesterunterd I love mated I’m a fan of utd

  • thewildchimp

    We live in a very strange era, where you’re either deemed a demi-god or sh’te.

    Zlatan is a bit of a pr’ck, but football-wise he is very honest and usually on the spot. He spent his youth in another era, when footballers had to put some serious, serious work to become successful professionals (Ronaldo, Messi), while nowadays it’s how much money will you bring to the club in the future, football is on the second place. That’s why it is extremely physical, with insane pressing for 90 mins and technical ability is just a bonus, a thing to separate the good from the average. When you look at the youngsters today, Sterling, Alli, Mitro, etc. and compare them to Shearer, Super Mac, Zlatan, MvB – with all of their pace, talent and strength – they are (probably) never gonna get there. Because they don’t work enough. They don’t have to, actually, and they should be judged on their respective merits and faults. Expecting them to be someone they aren’t is not going to yield any results.

    Zlatan isn’t the only one who criticized Guardiola. Many did. Him and Benitez are “control-freaks”. Everything with them has to be precise, methodical, rigid. Even away from the pitch. Players are just cogs in their meticulously assembled apparatuses. Some will comply, Zlatan and Mitro won’t. Even if Mitro wanted – he’s not the type who could run around for 90 mins. He is probably a stone over his proper size. Shelvey isn’t a defender as well. Ritchie tries, but can’t keep it up.

    So, one of my biggest beefs with Benitez is that he sent away the guy who makes everyone around him play better, bullies opposition defenders for fun (well, my fun, at least), changes things every time he enters the pitch, loves the club and is interesting to watch, to play the guy who is… decent defensively, I guess… Joselu might turn out to be a decent target man, but we’ll never know, because there is no one around him in this setup.

    I enjoyed the article.

    • GToon

      I have it on good authority that Guardiola is going to quit Man City at the end of the season and take up the job at Celtic. He’s just currently seeking assurances that he will be given the funds to make Celtic competitive in the SPL, just like he did before taking over the city job.

      • thewildchimp

        Interesting. Is he trying to pull a Benitez? :)

    • Down Under Mag

      I think you will always get players excelling, becoming the cream of the crop. These are the talented few who also posess drive, ambition and a never say die attitude. Sadly the vast majority sign their first major pay check, put in a couple of decent efforts to see if they can get signed up for a big pay-day club and then simply sit back and stop trying.

      • thewildchimp

        Especially if they come from countries plagued with football mafia. I’ve heard Mitro’s father threatened Partizan Belgrade to let Mitro to Anderlecht, or he’ll throw a hand-grenade on the stadium. Apparently “Big Mikes” there felt they can’t pocket a huge percent and were trying to block the move. In the end, it seems that the club got some measly sum.

        As for the money: they get millions to kick the ball for a few years. That’s your children, possibly even grandchildren, secured right there. Money problem solved. As a contrast, some players of old were playing in order to have a lunch in the canteen every day. Naturally, they fought like lions.

    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      Good post, I don’t rate Mitro highly but food for thought

      • thewildchimp

        Thanks!