Zlatan Ibrahimovic has garnered praise for Manchester United striker Anthony Elanga as Sweden prepare for their semi-final in the World Cup final against the Czech Republic on Thursday.
The 40-year-old striker remembered playing with the United winger’s father Joseph for Malmö FF over 20 years ago, and he now shares the Swedish locker room with his son.
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“The first time I met him, we were in the restaurant in [United] the training ground and he came to me and he said, ‘you know my dad’ and I said, help me now because I do not know who I am talking to, said Ibrahimovic.
“‘You played with my father Elanga’, and then everything clicked and I said ‘OK’ and it made me happy because I was not the only Swede in Manchester, we had another Swedish player.”
Ibrahimovic, who scored 17 goals in 33 Premier League matches during an injury period at United from 2016 to 2018, even allowed Elanga, 19, to occupy a central stage on the podium between himself and Sweden’s press manager.
“We’re all happy and we’re enjoying the adventure he’s on, he’s just started and he’s on his way up so it’s good. You want something to look at for another 20 years,” Ibra added with a smile.
Elanga, who has caught the eye with his performances for United this season, said Ibrahimovic has been an inspiration.
“You can see in the last 20 years what he has done for the national team, and of course at club football level you can see how he scores his goals. Even when I was young I used to look up to him when I was from Sweden, said Elanga.
“When I found out he was signing for United, I could not wait to talk to him, ask him about the memories he had with my father. It means a lot, you know, to be able to see him every day, day out here, train with him – that’s an honor. “
Sweden host the Czech Republic in their World Cup playoff semi-final at Friends Arena in Stockholm, a match Ibrahimovic will miss due to suspension.
The winners will face Poland next week for a place in the World Cup finals in Qatar, which starts in November.