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30th Jan 2017

Manchester United youngster reveals what Zlatan Ibrahimovic told him ahead of debut appearance

Words of advice

Darragh Murphy

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s greatest contribution for Manchester United this season has undoubtedly been on the scoresheets but the centre-forward has also been making an impact off the pitch.

More than one of United’s younger players have praised Ibrahimovic for the role he has taken up in imparting his wisdom and offering advice to them since he arrived in England last summer.

For a player as experienced as Ibrahimovic, who has seen it all on the football pitch, to be able to advise youngsters about what would be best for their careers is an added bonus to the 19 goals he has already provided for the Red Devils.

Axel Tuanzebe made his competitive United debut on Sunday, when he replaced Timothy Fosu-Mensah for the final 25 minutes of Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round victory over Wigan.

And as the 19-year-old defender prepared for his first appearance in front of the Old Trafford faithful, he heard the voice of Ibrahimovic on the United bench yelling advice in Tuanzebe’s direction.

“I was on the touchline and I can hear Zlatan just saying ‘keep it simple, keep it simple’ so I followed his advice and I was just waiting for my moment and it finally came,” he told MUTV.

“It was crazy, you know since I was a little boy I’ve been thinking of this and now it’s come true. I’m over the moon, I’m still shaking now! You just can’t really believe its happened but it’s good for me and my family. I’m very proud.

“But now it’s just getting back onto the training ground and going again. If I’m with the Under-23s, it’s with the 23s, I stay humble and work hard to get another opportunity to play again.”

Tuanzebe has recently been singled out by manager Jose Mourinho as the academy player who could benefit most from the January departures of Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay but he’s not the only youngster who has revealed Ibrahimovic’s new role as mentor.

“For the young players to see his character and the way he approaches every game is invaluable,” young forward Marcus Rashford said of the Swedish legend. “Some players can’t bring that when they move clubs.

“We have to try to learn from him while he is here and take what we can from his game.”