Zlatan Ibrahimovic is due to start a three-match suspension in the Premier League after accepting a violent conduct charge following his behaviour in the recent 1-1 draw with Bournemouth.
The ban does not apply to the Europa League, though, and so Manchester United’s Swedish striker was able to start against Rostov in Thursday night’s last-16 first-leg clash in west Russia.
He provided the assist that allowed Henrikh Mkhitaryan to open the scoring in the 1-1 draw, but the former Paris St Germain player otherwise had a quiet evening at the Olimp-2.
Here, Press Association Sport analyses Ibrahimovic’s performance on Thursday.
After a subdued opening half-hour, Ibrahimovic provided the pass that set up Mkhitaryan for the first goal in Rostov. Receiving Marouane Fellaini’s ball to the byline, the Swede skilfully pulled it back for Mkhitaryan to bag an away goal. Moments after the restart he blasted well wide under no pressure and, with half a sight of goal in the 74th minute, he bobbled the ball into Nikita Medvedev’s gloves.
His movement for the Mkhitarayan goal aside, Ibrahimovic seemed a little out-of-sorts off the ball. He was caught offside at the end of a United raid just before the break and later looked devoid of ideas when slipped a clever pass by Paul Pogba. When Rostov began to grow in confidence following Alexander Bukharov’s equaliser, he drifted out to the right wing and offered little incision.
Early on he drew a foul from midfielder Alexandru Gatcan, with the subsequent yellow card ruling the Rostov captain out of the return leg. Beyond impeding Timofey Kalachev after the hour mark, he avoided entering any heated confrontations similar to those that marred the Bournemouth clash, clearly aware he would risk suspension from another major competition and weaken his side.