Football

Age-defying Ibrahimovic feels like Benjamin Button

Zlatan Ibrahimovic compared himself to Benjamin Button after spearheading a victory which, according to Jose Mourinho, keeps Manchester United's top-four hopes alive.

Back-to-back home draws increased the pressure as the Red Devils headed to embattled Sunderland, where United extended their unbeaten league run to 21 matches with a 3-0 win and bolstered their hopes of Champions League qualification.

On Sunday, Ibrahimovic opened the scoring with a ferocious strike and, having seen Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson sent off and Henrikh Mkhitaryan add a second, he provided the assist for Marcus Rashford to wrap up victory.

It took the 35-year-old's tally to 28 goals for the campaign and led the brash striker to liken himself to Brad Pitt's title character from the film The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, who ages in reverse.

"I train hard, I keep focusing, I believe in what I do," Ibrahimovic told Sky Sports.

"It seems like the older I get, the more intelligent I get. You don't waste so much energy. I feel like Benjamin Button - I was born old and I will die young."

Mourinho praised Ibrahimovic after a win that reduced the gap to fourth-placed Manchester City, who have played a game more, to four points.

"After Liverpool and Man City's victories, if we don't win today it's almost mathematically impossible (to finish fourth)," he said.

"It was important for us to win and that was the main objective.

"We did that and, apart from that, no more injuries to add to a difficult list we have because we don't hide that we are still fighting for our situation in the Premier League.

"But Europa League becomes fundamental for us, it's the only competition we can win now. We won the Community Shield and the League Cup. Premier League, no way, so we have to fight for the Europa League."

The win on Wearside lifted the mood and even saw Mourinho praise Luke Shaw, who has responded impressively to recent criticism.

"He played well, played solid," Mourinho said.

"The opposition was not creating big problems, but he was solid and was confident with the ball.

"He was going forward with some danger, he was reading the game well. He played really well, so it was a good hour for him."- PA SPORT

eplManchester UnitedsunderlandZlatan Ibrahimovic