Crystal Palace vs Manchester United - Pardew relishing chance to face 'god-like' Ibrahimovic

Posted Wednesday, December 14, 2016 by PA

Alan Pardew finally gets the chance to come up against Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Wednesday, 18 years after first meeting the superstar striker.

At the start of his managerial career Pardew was on a scouting trip in Sweden when he was introduced to a 17-year-old Ibrahimovic.

The forward went on to have a stellar career with Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona and Paris St Germain before joining Manchester United in the summer.

It has been a long time coming but Pardew is now relishing the chance to send his Crystal Palace side out against United and Ibrahimovic at Selhurst Park.

"Coming up against Zlatan is one thing I've not done in my career and I'm looking forward to it," said the Eagles boss.

"I met him when he was 17 in Sweden. My wife is Swedish and her family all love him to bits. He's an icon there, almost god-like.

"He always makes me smile, and he makes me smile as a person because I think he plays in the right spirit.

"He probably doesn't remember but it was a social meeting and he carried himself well and spoke well, very professionally, even at a young age.

"Can you imagine him here, or at Newcastle or West Ham? They'd have loved him. He's an infectious person, he represents the game in the right manner, he's a great talent and he's scored some wonder goals."

Palace have taken four points from their past two games - having previously lost six on the spin - but their defensive problems reappeared in the 3-3 draw at Hull on Saturday.

"Obviously we need to tighten up," added Pardew. "Our 3-0 win against Southampton was the benchmark and we need to reproduce that against United.

"Our defenders have been here two or three years, no one is new, and they have done a brilliant job in the past.

"But defending is a team duty, everyone has a responsibility, including the substitutes.

"We have to find solutions and that's the hard part. It's easy to say what's right or wrong, we need to find solutions. We need to get back to how we performed against Southampton."

Pardew will be without midfielder Jason Puncheon, who is suspended after collecting a fifth booking of the season at Hull.

Defender James Tomkins is also ruled out of the clash with a groin injury.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho is hopeful Henrikh Mkhitaryan will shake off his ankle injury in time for the Christmas fixture schedule.

Mkhitaryan had turned in another man-of-the-match display during Sunday's home win against Tottenham before a tackle from Danny Rose led to the summer signing being stretchered off.

The Armenian marked his performance with the winning goal and although he will play no part in the away games at Crystal Palace on Wednesday and West Brom on Saturday, Mourinho is expecting him back sooner rather than later.

"Hopefully he can play at Christmas," Mourinho told a press conference at Carrington. "We believe it's possible, so when I saw him on a stretcher I thought it was more difficult.

"When I watched the tackle on TV I was a bit scared. It's a pity because he's going to miss matches in his best period, but at least we don't lose the player for so long."

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