AFTER turning down offers from Qatar and MLS, Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic is reportedly on the verge of joining Manchester United in January.
The 33-year-old may not come with the high-profile label that Red Devils’ supporters have become accustomed to, nor may he be the most inspiring signing they have ever made.
But the Croatian could be exactly what this struggling team need most right now.
It’s true that the player has been vastly underrated during his time at Juve.
Since arriving in Turin from Atletico Madrid at the beginning of the 2015/16 campaign, Mandzukic has fired in 41 times and provided 18 assists.
And he scored a sublime overhead kick in the Champions League final of 2017.
He was also quietly instrumental in Croatia’s superb run to the 2018 World Cup final.
He found the back of the net in normal time versus Denmark, broke England’s hearts in the semi-final with a goal in extra time and added a third for the tournament in the final versus France.
Yet there’s so much more to Mandzukic than mere goals and assists.
Any Juventus supporter would tell you that this player has never been one to shy away from a fight.
The fans let him know the high esteem in which they held him with a huge banner displayed in the Curva Sud back in 2017 that called him a “warrior among men”.
Former Bianconeri boss Max Allegri often deployed the Croatian on the wing to best make use of his grit and determination rather than his firepower, but the forward never sulked or moaned about not being the star of the show.
Often tracking back and helping out in defence, Mandzukic made 1.1 tackles and 1.2 clearances per game during the 2017/18 season on average.
Compare that with a rate of 0.3 tackles and 0.6 clearances for Fabio Quagliarella during that same period and it’s clear to see that the Juve man is always a team player, whether that be in attack or protecting his team’s goal.
Rarely giving out interviews, here is a player who is never motivated by fame or personal glory, instead just a workmanlike attitude and a will to get the job done.
After recent failures to bring in the right signings at United, the capture of Mandzukic could really be one of the most astute in recent years.
Having played – and scored – in Champions League and World Cup finals, there is no conceivable way that the pressure of playing at Old Trafford would get to him like it has done so often with others.
Mandzukic won’t hear the external noise of the million voices and opinions that surround the club, how fans and media think that boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is doing won’t bother him one bit.
This is the kind of man that Manchester United need in the dressing room right now, one that the younger players can seek to emulate in terms of not caring what anyone else thinks.
At Juve, there is a saying that comes from legendary goalscorer Giampiero Boniperti that says “winning isn’t important, it’s the only thing that counts.”
Such a motto was once true for Manchester United, and Mario Mandzukic will be a force in helping them take a step back towards that goal.
The Croatian is a fighter, a warrior and a hero,and for him, winning really is the only thing that counts.