English Premier League

As Zlatan Ibrahimovic vows to come back, meet the Hong Kong knee surgeon Manchester United hope can save his career

Pittsburgh-based Freddie Fu is one of the world’s leading experts on knee ligament reconstructions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 11:57am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 4:53pm

Manchester United superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic insisted his career was not over on Sunday – and a Hong Kong surgeon looks set to be tasked with saving his knee.

The Swedish striker suffered serious knee ligament damage against Anderlecht in the Europa League on Thursday.

According to reports in England, he will now fly to the United States for an operation under Freddie Fu Hou-koeng, chairman of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Ibrahimovic posted a picture of his knee on Instagram with a defiant message to those who had suggested the 35-year-old’s career was over.

“First of all, thank you for all the support and love,” read his message.

“I will go through this like everything else and come back even stronger. So far I played with one leg so it shouldn’t be any problem.

“One thing is for sure, I decide when its time to stop and nothing else. Giving up is not an option. See you soon.”

The Sun and Daily Mail in England reported that Fu will perform the operation, or operations, required to save Ibrahimovic’s knee.

The 66-year-old has carried out some 6,000 surgeries. Hong Kong born and raised, he studied at St Paul’s College before heading to the US in 1969. He received undergrad and postgrad degrees at Dartmouth College and Dartmouth Medical School before receiving his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1977, according to his profile on the university’s website

He established a sports and preventive medicine institute at the University in 1985, which is now regarded as one of the best in the world. It is now housed in a complex that is also home to the University’s Panthers american football team and the NFL’s Steelers.

“I’m fifth generation Hong Kong. I never knew I was going to stay here, but I fell in love with the city,” Fu said in a 2014 interview with Pittsburgh Business Times. “My wife has a lot of friends here.

“[Former university chancellor] Wesley Posvar loved sports. He thought sports medicine was important ... Most universities didn’t regard sports medicine as something important 35 years ago.”

Fu revealed in the interview that his love of sport came from his mother, while his father pushed him towards medicine.

“I learned sports from my mom,” he said. “She played basketball in Hong Kong in high school. My mom was so good she was like an all-star, but her father decided that girls shouldn’t play. He told her don’t play. The coach told her to change her name to play, which worked until they took her picture for the newspaper and my father saw it.

“My father attended medical school for one year, so he never fulfilled his dream. My father said go study in America. Be a professional. That is what’s important. Looking back, it was a pretty bold move.”

According to Fu’s university profile: “I have published 573 peer reviewed articles, 173 book chapters, and 30 major orthopaedic textbooks on the management of sports injuries.”

In 1999, Pittsburgh Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential Pittsburghers of the 20th Century and he has been named Person of the Year and Pittsburgh Man of the Year by local city organisations. September 13, 2016 was even named ‘Dr Freddie Fu Day’ by the city.

As well as working with athletes, Fu has been taking care of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s dancers since the 80s.

Fu’s brother Frank Fu Hoo-kin is an emeritus professor at HK Baptist University, chairman of the Hong Kong Anti-Doping Committee and on the board of the Hong Kong Association of Sports Medicine and Sports Science.