Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced a solid performance during Manchester United’s first leg 1-1 draw with FC Rostov in the Europa League.
The Swede, returning to action for the first time since receiving a three match ban, battled hard against a resolute Rostov back four all evening and provided a smart assist for Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s 35th minute goal.
His numbers from the game shed light on what was a valiant display in difficult conditions for the 35-year-old.
Ibrahimovic's game by numbers vs. Rostov:
2 chances created
50% aerial duels won
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 9, 2017
You could almost sense that this would be no cakewalk for Zlatan: a hard, bobbly pitch, playing as a lone striker in a 3-5-2 set-up designed to maintain control over the game more than anything.
He was largely consigned to receiving the ball with his back to goal against the Russian side; holding the ball as a No.9 is no easy task and the severity of Ibrahimovic’s task was compounded by a hard, bobbly surface and a lack of runners, usually coming in the form of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial.
The big man, it seemed, was very much on his own, and he managed to provide a moment of brilliance with his smart pass for Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the first half – a potentially decisive moment in the tie.