Zlatan Ibrahimovic was deliberately provoked by Fenerbahce in Manchester United’s Europa League defeat, manager Dick Advocaat has revealed.
The former Sweden international was involved in an altercation with Fener defender Simon Kjaer shortly before half-time on Thursday when the United striker seemingly insulted his opponent and grabbed him by the neck after a duel near the touchline.
It was a night of frustration for United, who suffered a 2-1 loss despite a late consolation goal from Wayne Rooney – another of the players Advocaat says his players successfully targeted.
“We had to provoke them a little,” Advocaat was quoted as saying by the Mirror.
“What players like him and Wayne Rooney like is to get space and time to play. So you have to irritate them when they get the ball and push them a little bit sharper.
“I wasn’t at all surprised Zlatan reacted that way. I know him, and Rooney too, and that’s what we needed to do. But they are still great players.
“Against Burnley, they created so many chances but against us, not so many. It’s difficult to play against us when we play how we did. They had to try to play through the zone and the block we made. They couldn’t do it and that frustrated them.”
Ibrahimovic and United are back in action with an away Premier League match against Swansea City on Sunday as the pressure grows on manager Jose Mourinho following a poor start to the season, with his side sitting eighth in the table.
But Advocaat added: “I have no doubts Mourinho will get it right. You can see how many prizes he has won at different clubs.
“So I will gladly make a bet with everybody that he will do it again at Manchester United. But it is always difficult because he has a lot of great players and you have to find the right balance with your team to do it every week.
“I have great respect for him. He just needs time. It would be foolish to write him and United off.”