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Ibrahimovic was a Man Utd target during the Alex Ferguson era

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Ferguson was an admirer of Ibrahimovic
Ferguson was an admirer of Ibrahimovic

Former Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan has revealed Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a transfer target for Alex Ferguson during his enduring reigned as United manager.

Phelan will renew acquaintances with United on Saturday in his role as caretaker manager at Hull City, as he looks to extend his side's surprisingly strong start to the season after a summer of turmoil that included the departure of manager Steve Bruce.

Hull will be taking on a rampant United side led by free-scoring Ibrahimovic, who has bagged three goals in his first two Premier League games and Phelan confirms the Swede had an admirer in his old boss Ferguson.

“I am sure he was on the radar many times, but he was at top, top clubs and because of that, even though it was Manchester United, the prospect of him moving to the Premier League was always very slim because he was at the best anyway," Phelan told MEN.

“He has not been outside of one of the top clubs in the world in his career. When somebody has hold of a talent like that they are not looking to let him go until they are ready.

“He would have been on the radar but they can be on your radar but you cannot always get them. The best is at the best so it is very difficult to do deals.

“The size of Manchester United means you want to recruit the very best. It demands it. He had to be a target."

“Every football club wants a catalyst to take it forward. They want somebody different who can galvanise and bring on other talents even further,” he added.

Phelan went on to compare Ibrahimovic's presence at United to that of Eric Cantona in the mid-1990s, as he suggested the experienced forward could be a talisman in their push for success this season.

“Zlatan has that sense of presence and confidence to handle all that. He is the right player at the right time at the right club," he added.

“Eric was the same. He was certainly a catalyst at our time in 1992. Cantona brought expectation and spirit. He had what United fans want to associate themselves with.

"They all want to see talent and he had it. United fans want to see players who express themselves and Eric was certainly able to do that.

“It looks like they have another one now. Now they expect him to deliver and so far Ibrahimovic is.”