During the chaotic 1-1 draw with Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Saturday, Zlatan Ibrahimovic did something very stupid… he missed a penalty which would have undoubtedly won the game for United. He also got himself involved in some Aussie-rules football and appeared to elbow Cherries’ defender Tyrone Mings who seemed to have stamped on the Swede’s head minutes earlier. Referee Kevin Friend didn’t book Ibrahimovic during the incident but did speak to him at depth, clearly about something he had seen. I won’t discuss the refereeing performance as it would require a separate article. Old Trafford’s favourite son Gary Neville, arguably the most biased pundit, with a love for aggro thought both men should have been sent for an early bath. He tweeted that Zlatan 100% meant to elbow Mings and there is no debate to be had.
Despite the Kevin Friend’s inability to officiate the game, it seems both are to be handed bans. The pair have been charged with alleged violent conduct by the FA. Zlatan’s plea of Mings jumping into his elbow has, for whatever reason, made no impact on the FA’s decision to award him a three-match ban. It’s important now to look at the impact this will have on Manchester United’s next three fixtures. Unfortunately perhaps, the ban will not include the upcoming fixtures against Rostov in the Europa League as it is a domestic ban. Zlatan will miss the following games for the Reds:
Chelsea [A] – FA Cup
Middlesbrough [A] – PL
West Brom [H] – PL
Personally, I believe Zlatan missing three games isn’t all that bad. If you have had the immense pleasure of reading any of my previous articles on him this season you’ll know I find his performances to be average at best with an impressive splattering of goals due to his undeniable class. He is un-droppable for Mourinho and finally we will get to see Rashford (I presume) lead the line for United for more than 10 minutes in a game, something he did so successfully in the second half of last season. Zlatan will be missed against Chelsea at the Bridge as having someone with the leadership skills and experience he has is vital in those game and is something United are short of all over the pitch. I have a feeling David Luiz and Gary Cahill will be savvy enough to cope with Rashford.
In the all-important race for fourth in the Premier League – for Zlatan to miss games against ‘Boro and West Brom doesn’t concern me at all. Although ‘Boro are defensively sound and well drilled at the back, I have full confidence in the pace and drive of a front-3 in which Zlatan does not feature. West Brom at home would be a game I would like to see Rashford play even if Ibra was available. The lack of speed in the Baggies’ defence is something to exploit through balls in the channels for Rashford to run onto as he does so well.
Zlatan gives much needed stability, leadership and experience to United which I will be missed against Chelsea next Monday evening. However the other two games are ones I would rather see him on the bench for anyway. This ban, other than injury, is the only way Mourinho would choose another name on the teamsheet. I fully expect United to record 6 points from 6 in the Premier League games. My confidence for the FA cup fixture however, has taken a further dent. I sincerely hope Rashford starts all three games because I rate him so highly as a United striker and he should have had more minutes this season. Now is his chance again.