Zlatan Ibrahimovic is facing the prospect of a retrospective three-match ban for violent conduct after the Manchester United striker elbowed Tyrone Mings during a fractious 1-1 draw against 10-man Bournemouth at Old Trafford that dealt a severe blow to the Red Devils’ top-four hopes.
Elsewhere in the battle for the European spots, two of their rivals faced each other in the later game, with Liverpool emerging as 3-1 winners at Anfield to further dent Arsenal’s hopes and heap further pressure on under-fire Gunners boss Arsene Wenger.
Ibrahimovic’s 44th-minute elbow on Bournemouth defender Mings was missed by referee Kevin Friend and his assistants but the Football Association are likely to take a dim view of the incident when they review the footage tomorrow.
Mings could also receive a three-game suspension for violent conduct from the governing body for an apparent stamp on Ibrahimovic moments earlier that was also missed by Friend but seemed to serve as the trigger for the Swede’s retaliation.
Bournemouth had been reduced to 10 men on the cusp of half-time when their captain, Andrew Surman was shown a second yellow card after reacting angrily to Ibrahimovic’s elbow by shoving the United player to the ground.
Josh King had earlier cancelled out Marcos Rojo’s opening goal when the former United trainee scored a 40th-minute penalty after Phil Jones had brought down Marc Pugh.
“You can see the TV and the images,” Ibrahimovic said. “In my situation, I jump up, I jump high, at the same time I protect myself and it’s unlucky he jumps into my elbow. On many occasions, these things happen and I hope he didn’t get injured.
“What happens on the field stays on the field, I’m not a player who will talk afterwards or attack somebody.”
Jamie Carragher, the Sky Sports pundit and former Liverpool defender, branded Mings’ challenge when he caught his opponent’s right ear with the full force of his studs, as a “disgraceful, cowardly stamp” and claimed he “deserved a smack” from Ibrahimovic.
But Mings insisted the contact was not deliberate.
“Not at all, I would never do that,” he said. “Hard and fair is how I like to tackle but I don’t get involved in off the ball stuff.”
Of the elbow incident, Mings said: “It was maybe an elbow, I didn’t see it but I felt it.”
Jose Mourinho and Wayne Rooney claimed Mings knew what he was doing.
“If you ask me that I am happy if Tyrone Mings gets three or four or five matches ban, I really don’t care about it,” the United manager said. “He knows what he did, he knows better than anyone what he did.”
Rooney was in no doubt about the incident, saying: “I don’t think the referee saw him try and stamp on Zlatan’s head. It’s wrong and there’s no place for it in football. I am sure that will get looked at and punished.”
Nonetheless, Ibrahimovic accepted the blame for two dropped points after he failed to put the ball in the net from the penalty spot later in the game.
“Of course when you don’t win the game with the opportunities we had . . . but I take the blame, I should have scored, absolutely, I had a good chance with the penalty,” he said.
“I give myself the fault.”