Talk about bad timing.
In our weekend Premier League recap we mentioned the 1-1 draw between Manchester United and Bournemouth and a particularly nasty incident between Zlatan Ibrahimovi? and Tyrone Mings. Both players were formally charged by the FA the following day. Rather than go through a disciplinary hearing, Zlatan chose not to contest the charges and accept whatever punishment officials felt was appropriate.
Today the FA made their decision: three games.
Officials ruled that Zlatan’s elbow to Mings’ face met the “violent conduct” threshold to warrant more than one game out of contention. The former Sweden international will miss the next three domestic fixtures— United’s FA Cup quarterfinal tie with Chelsea next Monday plus two Premier League clashes, away at Middlesbrough and at home to West Bromwich Albion. Zlatan will be available again for their midweek home fixture on April 4th against Everton.
The FA has yet to rule on Mings, who was caught by cameras stamping on Zlatan’s head. The FA suggested that the Bournemouth defender may end up serving a longer suspension than Zlatan, with a three-match ban being described as “clearly insufficient.”
The suspension only applies to domestic matches, meaning that Zlatan will be available for United’s Europa League tie with FC Rostov. He traveled with the team to Russia earlier today, and given his domestic ban it’s liable he’ll get plenty of minutes in Europe.
Still, this is awful timing for United, who are in a tough fight for Champions League qualification. Despite a solid run of form in recent months, José Mourinho’s squad is stuck in sixth place. The fight for the fourth and last Champions League spot is shaping up to be a contest between Arsenal and Liverpool, and United really need all hands on deck if they want to force themselves into that conversation. With Zlatan ruled out until April in the league, an already difficult task may have just become impossible.