How important is Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Manchester United?

How important is Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Manchester United?

There's no doubt that Zlatan has had a significant impact on Man United since he joined but just how important is he to the team?

"Zlatan is ill so I think no problem, I think he will be fine," Mourinho said when asked about his availability for Sunday's game.

Jose Mourinho obviously believes Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have recovered from illness to face Liverpool on Sunday. If he does not make the team though it would undoubtedly be a blow for United and a boost to Liverpool. We've taken a look to see if the stats back up that psychological edge.

Zlatan has scored 13 league goals this season, with United scoring 31 in total. As a ratio, that is 42% of their total goals, which shows how much the team has relied on Zlatan to finish off their moves. That could also show how much Jose Mourinho has set up the team to play to the Swede's strengths and maximise the returns he gets from him. He is certainly in with a shout of winning the golden boot this season.

Somewhat surprisingly, only 5 of those 13 league goals have been significant to the result of the match. Those being first goals, equalising goals or goals scored to win a match.

 
Wins Draws Losses
With Zlatan 17 5 3
Ratio 68% 20% 12%
Without Zlatan 4 1 2
Ratio 57% 14% 29%

Source: soccerbase.com. Data includes all competitions.

In matches where Zlatan has played, the team has won 17 out of 25, giving a win percentage of 68%. Without him they have won 4 out of 7, giving a win percentage of 57%. That is a reasonably big difference, especially when you consider the loss percentage goes up by 17% when Zlatan does not play.

There is a player that is perhaps more important to whether the team wins or not though and that is Michael Carrick.

 
Wins Draws Losses
With Carrick 13 2 0
Ratio 87% 13% 0%
Without Carrick 8 4 5
Ratio 47% 24% 29%

Source: soccerbase.com. Data includes all competitions.

Carrick's record this season for Man United is astonishing. He's featured in 15 matches this season, not losing any of them with a win percentage of 87%. In the matches when Carrick has not played that win percentage drops dramatically to 47%, winning 8 of 17 games and losing 5.

Carrick did not feature all that much at the start of the season but has been favoured by Mourinho in the middle since October. That has coincided with a big upturn in fortunes for the team, with United going for a tenth win in a row against Liverpool this weekend. Whether that is down to Carrick's influence or Mourinho starting to find his feet with the team is up for debate. There's no denying that that Carrick has forced himself up the pecking order, becoming a vital part of the first 11 this season.

Ibrahimovic also has three assists this season and his general play is only of benefit to the team. He's also one of the bigger and stronger characters in the squad and would be a big miss in a game like this. You wouldn't back against him making the difference in a big match like the one against Liverpool as United look to gain more ground in the race for the top four.

With home advantage, Man United go into the game as 6/5 favourites, with Liverpool at 14/5 and the draw 12/5.