Sharman’s 3 thoughts: What will be Ibra’s influence at Man United?

Martine Gaillard and Craig Forrest get you set for a busy slate of Premier League action, including Arsenal looking to turn it around, and Manchester United looking to continue their rise.

Ahead of every weekend this season I will give you my three thoughts on what’s going on in the Premier League. These might not always be the biggest stories, but rather my personal observations as the games approach each Saturday.

The always poorly timed international window has closed, as has the always poorly timed transfer window, so now we can sink our teeth back into the Premier League.

Here’s what makes me somewhat intrigued ahead of Matchday 4.

Tough road ahead for the Ox at Anfield

The Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain move to Liverpool snuck in during the final hours on the transfer window, with all reports suggesting that the Ox was swayed by the prospect of playing in his preferred central midfield position at Anfield.  This weekend Liverpool meets Manchester City in the early kickoff, and by my reckoning if he wants to play centrally he will find himself competing with the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, James Milner, and Adam Lallana (when he returns.)  

Now, I acknowledge these players are all versatile, and spring up all over the pitch, but there is more of a need for wide players at Liverpool. So, will the Ox actually end up playing wide once again?  Is he even able to play centrally at a high level? Maybe he’ll play in central defence, where Liverpool really needed to strengthen this summer, but failed to do anything about it.

Watch five games from the Premier League this weekend live on Sportsnet, including Manchester City vs. Stoke City and Watford vs. Arsenal. Coverage begins Saturday at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Very sad for Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney wrote a wonderful story to start the season back where it all began for him at Goodison Park. Wazza was smiling, he was playing superbly, Everton were emerging as one of the teams to watch this season.  And then… 

Rooney undid all the good work he and his club had put in since his move to Everton with a DUI, coupled with an all too personal entanglement in the process.  Suddenly, Rooney’s off field behaviour has overshadowed his on-field production. The Toffees host Tottenham on Saturday, and it’ll be interesting to see if the feel-good factor from the start of the campaign remains. Rooney is no stranger to negative press, he can handle the vitriol spewed by opposing fans, but it didn’t need to be like this.  Very sad.

The Ibra factor

It remains to be seen when Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be healthy enough to put on his new number 10 jersey at Manchester United, but as he has been named to the Champions League squad it can’t be that far away.

Let’s be honest: it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him on the pitch very soon – after all Ibra is super human. But what kind of influence will he have in the long-term? United have had a sensational start to the campaign, and look a tight, well-oiled unit.  Ibra has big personality, of course, so will he accept a bench role this season?  Will he mentor Romelu Lukaku? Will he slow down United’s dynamic attack when he sees action?  So many questions, but I am just happy to see him back in the Premier League.

Sportsnet's Soccer Central podcast (featuring James Sharman, Thomas Dobby, Brendan Dunlop, and John Molinaro) takes an in-depth look at the beautiful game and offers timely and thoughtful analysis on the sport's biggest issues.