Paul Pogba has praised Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Manchester United, insisting he is a “big leader”.
The 35-year-old confounded the doubters with an explosive first season at Old Trafford, plundering 28 goals before injury brought his campaign to an abrupt end in April.
Ibrahimovic sustained serious knee ligament damage and will likely be out for the rest of 2017, so it was little surprise that United chose not to extend his huge deal beyond the summer.
However, the Swede is undergoing rehabilitation with United and Jose Mourinho has opened the door for the return of a player who is still influencing life at the club.
“Obviously Zlatan is a leader, always a big leader,” United midfielder Pogba said in Washington.
“And he’s still a big leader because he’s still in the team, even when he’s not playing he’s a leader outside of the pitch.
“I’ve been playing for one season, I came here to hopefully be a leader as well in the team. That’s not like the objective, but that’s how you should be.
“I’ve been here, we won and we want to grow up as a player and a leader as well.
“I can learn from him, from Carras (Michael Carrick), from all the players and become a leader.”
Mourinho called Pogba the “leader of the young guys” – an experienced figurehead and academy graduate, even if it did take a world-record fee to bring him back to the club last summer.
“It was a big challenge for me,” the France midfielder said of his Old Trafford return from Juventus.
“I knew that I wouldn’t play Champions League and I say to myself ‘I want Manchester United to be the Manchester United they were back in the day’.
“I think we are on the way. We won three trophies last season, we’re back in the Champions League.
“The team is improving a lot again, so I hope that we are going to continue that way and improve.”