‘Did they mean it?’
It’s a question I’m often left pondering. Can I really be sure someone meant to hurt an opponent – or do the replays make it look worse than it is?
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However, it’s an unnecessary discussion for Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Tyrone Mings. It’s the first double incident with 100% intent that I’ve seen in a long, long time. I still can’t believe what we saw at Old Trafford on Saturday – it was more suited to rugby. Kids will see that and start thinking the best solution is to elbow someone or tread on someone’s face.
What Mings did was unthinkable. When the replay flashed up, I had to turn away – I couldn’t believe anyone would do that to another human being. It’s one of the worst things I’ve seen, that stud could have sunk straight into his eye. People have to stop using the word ‘allegedly’, it’s obvious there was intent to step on him.

Manchester United's Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (C) clashes in the air with Bournemouth's English defender Tyrone Mings (L)

Image credit: AFP

But it’s nonsense that the Bournemouth man sparked the violence. It was Ibrahimovic who first went on the stud offensive – running his boot perilously close to the defender’s thigh. And then, despite that, he still sought revenge. I’ve never seen anyone jump for the ball with their fist clenched, as he did, unless they are preparing for contact. He’s 35 and supposedly experienced, but it was a selfish act that leaves Manchester United in a difficult position for the next three games.
Games Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss...
Chelsea v Manchester United (FA Cup sixth round)March 13
Middlesbrough v Manchester United (Premier League)March 19
Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion (Premier League) April 1

THE PUNISHMENT…

Ibrahimovic has accepted an FA charge, meaning he’ll serve a three-game ban, but it’s not enough. His elbow could have been really serious. If the FA wants to tackle this behaviour, they have to slap another couple of games on to a regular ban. Only then will you convince players to act differently.

Tyrone Mings

Image credit: PA Photos

REFEREE DID NOT HELP

Kevin Friend displayed a complete lack of football knowledge. It was obvious to everyone in the stadium that something was cooking between these two, but he ignored it and effectively encouraged the situation.
Knowing the rules doesn’t make you a good referee. So what if you know all the hand movements? You’ve still got to have a smell for potential incidents. If he had anything about him as a football person, he would have shut it down after their first spat. It’s embarrassing and another reason for off-pitch assistance to help the officials…

ELBOWING SOMEONE NEVER CROSSED MY MIND

There’s a difference between wanting to leave a mark and trying to inflict serious injury. I’m not going to sit here and say I’ve never gone in hard on someone – particularly after receiving a bad challenge. It comes back to the old football adage: let him know you’re there.
But did I ever think about putting my foot or elbow through someone’s head? Not a chance. That never crossed my mind and anyone who thinks like that is verging on the psychopathic.

Zlatan

Image credit: AFP

OPPORTUNITY FOR RASHFORD?

Ibrahimovic’s selfish behaviour leaves United in a difficult situation as the top-four race heats up, with his suspension ruling him out of games against Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion. Given both sides have stingy defences and Ibrahimovic is practically United’s only goal threat, Jose Mourinho could be left ruing the Swede’s wild elbow.
However, it’s a huge opportunity for Marcus Rashford… if Mourinho gives him the chance he deserves. The boss should say ‘Marcus, you’ve got three games to show me you’re worth a shot’ – although you’re never quite sure what he’ll actually do next.
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Paul Parker - @realpaulparker2
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