Because of his first name, Zidane Iqbal was doomed to face sky-high levels of competition in the world of football from the very beginning. Even for a player who is talented enough to become a star within the Manchester United academy, having to deal with the pressure of having the same name as one of the all-time greats of the game can’t be easy.
But if United’s first two preseason games are any indication, then Iqbal might have a chance at becoming a household name all on his own. This is assuming that United’s preseason games are any indication.
Even though it is still very early in his career, the 19-year-old defender is already making an impression on the new manager of United, Erik ten Hag, as well as on the millions of fans who have seen him play against Liverpool and Melbourne Victory over the last week.
Iqbal has been playing for United since he was nine years old, thus his performances for the club have merited this kind of attention ever since he joined the club.
His name most likely had something to do with it, but he is one of those rare talents who gained a level of fame among supporters before even making his senior debut. That debut came in December as a late substitute against Young Boys in the Champions League. His name likely had something to do with it.
That excitement that surrounds his skill has only risen as United have traveled through Thailand and Australia, with social media highlights and compilations only serving to feed a rising frenzy. This excitement has only increased since United have been playing in Thailand and Australia.
The levels of excitement that surround Iqbal are akin to the levels of excitement that surrounded another precocious midfielder who was rising through the club’s academy at the same time, and that player’s name was Paul Pogba. Fans are able to recognize quality when they see it, and there is no denying Iqbal’s talent.
Although United are doing their best to preserve their young phenom, it is a testament to his talent that Ten Hag instantly included him on his first tour after taking over as manager – along with Charlie Savage, who is also an exceptional youth product.
And Iqbal’s performances have made it impossible to ignore him, with his drag-back and turn from the 4-1 win against Melbourne Victory going viral and then some. His performances have made it impossible to ignore him.
However, as far as Ten Hag is concerned, the most encouraging thing about him is the general level of serenity he displays. He is very good with the ball and has the ability to escape opponents. However, he also has the knowledge to know when he is doing too much on the field.
In the style that Ten Hag hopes to instill into United, he jealously preserves control of the ball, which ensures that United makes reasonable and intelligent use of the ball.
However, when he opens things up, that is when he sends followers into raptures, and when he opens things up, opponents are sent the other way. The young player has produced a number of goals for United’s youth teams that have stood out from the rest, often displaying a burst of speed and talent to go by defenders from the other team before finding the back of the net.
Iqbal’s bravery is one of the attributes that sets him apart from others, and it is particularly his boldness that has attracted the attention of the senior pros he is now sharing a dressing room with. In addition, Iqbal’s fearlessness is one of the qualities that makes him stand out.
He is self-assured enough to fight for the ball and continue offering his teammates a variety of alternatives in an effort to alleviate pressure and keep the game going forward. It is one thing to do something like that in youth football, but it is an entirely different thing to do it at the professional level.
When Ten Hag offered Iqbal his opportunity to play against Liverpool in Bangkok during United’s 4-0 friendly win, Iqbal did not show any signs of being intimidated by the occasion.
The young player entered the game as a second-half substitute and it was immediately apparent that he wanted to make an impression. He kept sinking into deeper areas in order to become engaged in the action on the field.
Always, there were other people around him wearing Liverpool shirts. Always, he was able to avoid them and keep possession of what was his.
United have moved quickly to ensure Iqbal’s future success, despite the fact that his Pakistani father and Iraqi mother are both from other countries. In April of 2021, he signed his first professional contract, and then in June of this year, he inked a long-term deal that would keep him with the club until 2025 and gives the club the option to keep him there for an additional year.
Within a few short weeks of him turning professional, the sportswear giant Puma signed him to a boot endorsement deal, recognizing not only his talent but also his marketability as a rare British-Asian player for one of England’s “Big Six” clubs. His talent and marketability have been recognized elsewhere, too.
In the meantime, Iraq has succeeded in winning the youngster’s international allegiance. This is the case despite the fact that he is also eligible to represent England and that he describes himself as a “proud Mancunian.” The youngster was raised in Whalley Range, which is located in the south-western part of Manchester.
Iqbal’s talent was originally seen by Manchester United when he was very young and playing for his hometown team, Sale United. They brought him to the renowned Cliff training field, which is where United greats like Ryan Giggs and David Beckham sharpened their skills before joining the club.
Even though Iqbal’s fundamental talents came from practicing shooting with his father, Aamar, after he had stopped playing five-a-side, United’s youth coaches appear to have done a terrific job with him. However, Iqbal’s basic skills actually came from practicing with United’s youth coaches.
Ralf Rangnick was suitably impressed by the player Iqbal has become during his interim spell as manager last season, and Ten Hag invited Iqbal and Savage to be a part of his first-team sessions even before they jetted off to the other side of the world. Savage was also invited to be a part of Ten Hag’s first-team sessions.
Iqbal certainly has the look of a player that Ten Hag would want on his team, but it is possible that he will have to wait for his opportunity to shine once the team returns to England. This is because the Dutch coach has made it a priority to immediately address the midfield position in the transfer market by acquiring Christian Eriksen and pursuing Frenkie de Jong. Meanwhile, Donny van de Beek has returned from his loan stint at Everton to bring even more competitiveness to the mix.
However, the fact that Iqbal’s Instagram name is “@z10dane” provides some insight into his aspirations, even if he does not consider Dane De Gea to be his greatest footballing inspiration. Iqbal’s No. 55 shirt, therefore, is an accurate indication of where he genuinely belongs within the United squad.
This honor has been given upon Mesut Ozil, a former star for Germany, Real Madrid, and Arsenal. Iqbal’s game resembles Ozil’s in that he is able to slip by opponents.
It will be fascinating to see what happens next with Iqbal. If a player is described by their coaches as having the ability to make something out of nothing, the next natural step for that player would be to take a loan transfer during the current season.
However, considering the impression that he has made on tour, it would be reasonable if Ten Hag decided to keep his very personal Zidane around for a little longer. Zidane has made an impression on the tour.