Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Manchester United have today been handed a potentially major blow to their top four hopes, following the FA’s decision to hand the striker a three-game ban for an elbow on Tyrone Mings during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Bournemouth.
Ibrahimovic is facing the suspension for an elbow on Mings late in the first half of Saturday’s game. The Bournemouth defender is facing an even lengthier ban for a stamp on the United star a minute earlier, which prompted the aggressive response from Ibrahimovic.Embed from Getty Images
Both players have until Tuesday evening to respond to the charges, but there is very little chance of that, with both now facing at least three games out for violent conduct.
Ibrahimovic will miss next Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Chelsea, followed by Premier League games against Middlesbrough on March 19 and West Brom on April 1. However, the Swedish forward would still be available for Europa League matches in that time. United face Russian side FC Rostov away this Thursday, before the return leg at Old Trafford next week.
No United player has made more appearances this season than the age-defying Ibrahimovic, who has scored 26 goals in his debut season in English football. He has proven his doubters wrong by inspiring Jose Mourinho’s side over the course of the season and his absence could prove to be hugely costly come the end of the season.Embed from Getty Images
United are still stuck in sixth place in the Premier League, but are just three points off Liverpool in fourth, with a game in hand too. They will expect to take six points from the upcoming league fixtures against Middlesbrough and West Brom, but the loss of Ibrahimovic could throw their chances into doubt.
The frontman has scored or assisted almost half of United’s goals in the top flight this season, which highlights exactly how influential he’s been for the Red Devils.
United are unbeaten in 17 Premier League games and it’s no coincidence that Ibrahimovic has hit form during that time, scoring 11 of his 15 league goals during that stretch.He’s only missed five games in total so far this term, but none of those have been away from home. The only league game he missed saw United draw 1-1 at home to Arsenal.
It’s been over a year since Anthony Martial started a game up front, while Wayne Rooney’s days as an out-and-out striker appear to have ended a long time ago. That means Mourinho will more than likely look to Marcus Rashford in the upcoming games that Ibrahimovic will miss.Embed from Getty Images
Rashford has only scored three league goals so far this season, although he has only been handed 10 starts, coming off the bench in 11 more and often out on the left-wing.
United have not only lost their best goalscorer in Ibrahimovic, but also the man who links midfield to attack with his world-class hold up play.
As it stands, United are still in three competitions and only three points off the top four. If they are in the same – or an even better position – this time next month, then they’ll have done remarkably well without this year’s talisman.
How do you think Manchester United will cope without Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Does he deserve a three-game ban?