Zlatan Ibrahimovic made an immediate impact in his MLS debut on Saturday, scoring twice to rally the LA Galaxy to a 4-3 win over new local rivals LAFC at StubHub Center.
With the crowd chanting “We want Zlatan!” in the second half, the former Manchester United striker entered the game in the 71st minute — to a raucous welcome from the home supporters — with his new club trailing the expansion team 3-1.
Within two minutes, Ibrahimovic played a part in controlling the ball before Chris Pontius got a goal back for the Galaxy — and then the Swedish star took the game into his own hands.
Ibrahimovic had his new team back on level terms five minutes later, smashing in his first shot in a Galaxy uniform from 38 yards away with a swerving half-volley that went over the head of LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller and into the net.
Just into stoppage time, Ibrahimovic rose highest to head home a cross from Emmanuel Boateng to complete the comeback.
“I think I heard, ‘We want Zlatan, We want Zlatan.’ And I gave them Zlatan,” Ibrahimovic told Fox after the game. “So they were pushing me, and I gave back.”
It was an impressive performance for the 36-year-old, who arrived in the United States on Thursday night and trained with the Galaxy for the first time on Friday.
“I felt like I played 40 games for my 20 minutes,” Ibrahimovic said. “I said this time I shoot, I don’t run with the ball. That’s the ball that went in. I said I will save strength to play another 15 minutes.”
Ibrahimovic has a history of amazing debuts. He also scored in his first appearances for United in 2016 and Paris Saint-Germain in 2012.
“I mean, my history often when I come to a new team, I score in the first game, the first official game, so I wouldn’t let it down this time,” he said. “I had to score.”
One of the most famous players in the world, Ibrahimovic completed his move from United to MLS last week, signing a two-year deal that ESPN sources have said will pay him $3 million.
Ibrahimovic had talks with MLS about moving to the Galaxy in 2016, but he joined United on a free transfer from PSG. He has also played for AC Milan, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Ajax and Malmo, scoring more than 450 goals for club and country.
His career appeared to be in jeopardy when he tore the ACL in his right knee in the Europa League quarterfinals against Anderlecht last April, but after a faster-than-expected recovery — “Lions don’t recover like humans,” he said — United signed Ibrahimovic to another one-year contract in August.
However, United’s purchase of Romelu Lukaku earlier in the summer pushed Ibrahimovic to the sideline, and their elimination this month from the Champions League — which Ibrahimovic never won — allowed the Galaxy to secure him before the end of United’s season. Then he wasted no time putting his unique stamp on MLS.
The Galaxy became just the second team in MLS history to come back from a three-goal deficit to win in regulation. The Seattle Sounders did so last season.
“We were losing 3-0. We made simple mistakes in the first half, not really organized,” Ibrahimovic told the Galaxy’s website. “But after we scored the first one we kept pushing, got the second when I came in, I scored the third and the fourth. So thanks for my teammates — they make it easy not easy for me, but they make it more easy.”
Galaxy forward Ola Kamara thought his new teammate was being uncharacteristically modest.
“It was a good team effort,” Kamara said, “but in the end, I think it was a Zlatan day.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores two stunning goals in MLS debut with LA Galaxy – ESPN