Zlatan Ibrahimovic admits he has the utmost respect for Chelsea despite Manchester United’s humbling at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester United were thrashed 4-0 by Chelsea on Sunday on a humiliating first return to west London for Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho’s men got back to winning ways last night with a 1-0 EFL Cup fourth-round victory over local rivals Manchester City.
But while Zlatan Ibrahimovic was criticised for smiling and joking with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard after their heavy defeat, he brushed the issue aside.
“They [Chelsea] have good quality players, they know what they’re doing and what they need to do,” the 35-year-old.
“But at the same time, we know also what we need to do and what we are doing.
“It’s nice to play against good players because they are the games that you can bring out the maximum of yourself.”
Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs slammed Ibrahimovic for his actions at full-time against Chelsea.
He said: “You can get beat in a football match, but then when you’re getting beat and you’re swapping shirts, that is something I don’t like.”
And Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher was brutal in his assessment of Ibrahimovic’s performance against Manchester City last night.
“I don’t think Zlatan Ibrahimovic has probably had a worse 45 minutes than that in his career,” he said.
But Ibrahimovic is unlikely to care, given how he deals with the criticism that comes his way.
“We believe in ourselves and believe in what we are doing, that’s the main thing,” he added.
Ibrahimovic’s performance, on the whole, smacked of a player who, for all his nous, looks in need of a break.
This was his 10th game in less than seven weeks, plenty of them played at a pace he will seldom have encountered in Ligue 1 with Paris St-Germain.
In recent weeks, he has looked his age and the overhit passes, the cheap concession of possession, the hapless miscontrols that drew that stark appraisal from Carragher were, while embarrassing for a player of his gifts, also a consequence of weary legs, of a tired mind, of a player who is at risk of being flogged.
Now that Wayne Rooney has been removed from United’s starting line-up, and mobility has not returned, attention has switched to the contribution of the Sweden international and what his punishing lack of pace means for their attack.
The 35-year-old was one of seven players retained from the starting line-up at Stamford Bridge and his display was a test of Mourinho’s patience as well as faith.