Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United look for Europa League boost after Ibrahimovic ban blow

Manchester United will have to cope without their leading marksman for their next three domestic games after Zlatan Ibrahimovic accepted his Football Association violent conduct charge.

Jose Mourinho cannot include the suspended striker in his squad for Monday's FA Cup quarter-final trip to Chelsea, or Premier League games with Middlesbrough and West Brom after the 35-year-old was punished for an incident in Saturday's draw with Bournemouth when his elbow struck the side of Tyrone Mings' face.

Mings is also facing a suspension having landed on the Swede's head with his left boot moments earlier and Press Association Sport understands the Cherries are braced for the possibility of losing him for a minimum of three games, even though they have contested his charge.

It is believed Bournemouth are challenging the FA's recommendation that the standard three-game ban is "clearly insufficient".

United flew to Russia on Tuesday and were able to include Ibrahimovic among their travelling party as his suspension does not apply to the Europa League games with FC Rostov.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan was also on the plane having missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury but Wayne Rooney and Luke Shaw, both of whom started in Saturday's 1-1 draw with the Cherries, and the suspended Eric Bailly were left at home along with Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Mourinho still has to juggle his squad across three competitions and Monday's visit to his old employers Chelsea looks even more daunting now Ibrahimovic is suspended.

The former Sweden international has scored 26 times in his maiden season at Old Trafford and no other player in Mourinho's ranks has even reached double figures.

He had an off-day at the weekend, though, as he saw a second-half penalty saved by Artur Boruc after his ongoing battle with Mings had reached boiling point.

Both players escaped punishment at the time because referee Kevin Friend had failed to spot the incidents, but action was brought on Monday once a panel of three former elite referees had studied video footage.

Ibrahimovic had denied there was any intent behind his action - claiming Mings jumped "into my elbow" - though he had appeared prepared to accept any possible retrospective punishment when speaking after the game on Saturday.

"I respect every decision," he had said. "I am not here to attack anybody. My purpose was not to do that. The game is hard."

Mings proclaimed his innocence too but he was charged as well and that came with a caveat from the FA that it was advising that the mandatory three-game punishment would not suffice in this instance.

Bournemouth's next three games are against West Ham, Swansea and Southampton and Press Association Sport understands the club are already resigned to losing the 23-year-old for that trio of fixtures.

Their schedule then includes fixtures with Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham and the Cherries hope that when the eventual punishment is meted out, Mings' ban is no longer than the one Ibrahimovic will serve.

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