Ibrahimović inspired by United record-breaker Rooney
Friday, November 25, 2016
"There are not enough words because he is the perfect player," Zlatan Ibrahimović said of Wayne Rooney after the England forward broke a Manchester United record.
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He might be struggling to hold down a starting place at Old Trafford this season but Wayne Rooney's record European strike for Manchester United against Feyenoord last night was a reminder of the qualities of a footballer hailed as "the perfect player" by team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimović.
It was Ibrahimović who supplied the pass for Rooney to score his 39th goal in European competition for United and so move above the club's previous record-holder Ruud van Nistelrooy.
With his cool chip over Brad Jones, Rooney also climbed within one goal of equalling Sir Bobby Charlton's overall best of 249 for United and Ibrahimović was full of superlatives afterwards for the England forward.
"He is, first of all as a person fantastic," Ibrahimović said. "I had the luck to get to know the person and as a player, there are not enough words because he is the perfect player – everybody knows what he can do, what he did and what he has done. I am happy for him that he broke the record but I will help him go one better because that is the real record."
Rooney also supplied the second goal of United's 4-0 UEFA Europa League Group A success for Juan Mata and fully deserved the standing ovation that came his way when he was substituted after 82 minutes for a side now one point from the round of 32.
On the day that his fellow Liverpudlian Steven Gerrard had announced his retirement, Rooney had highlighted in timely fashion the talents which may only be truly appreciated when he too hangs up his boots.
United's all-time UEFA competition top scorers
39: Wayne Rooney
38: Ruud van Nistelrooy
30: Ryan Giggs
26: Paul Scholes
20= Denis Law, Ole Gunnar Solskjær
This has been a difficult period for Rooney, who has started just one of United's last seven Premier League matches and spoke out last weekend, with some justification, about the "lack of respect" showed him by the English press recently.
Ibrahimović concurred, saying: "We should appreciate him for the player he is and what he did and I don't see many players from England who have had the same career as him. I feel a little bit sorry for the situation – they should show more respect for him."
If United's victory failed to silence the terrific Feyenoord fans, still singing long after the final whistle, it lifted them above the Dutch team into second place in the Group A standings with one match to play and offered plenty of encouragement after a frustrating run of home draws in the Premier League.
Rooney was not the only player to shine; their attacking play was incisive and full of movement, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan showing his quality on his first start in a United shirt since 10 September. In one second-half attack he drifted beautifully past three Feyenoord men before falling at the feet of the last defender.
Defender Daley Blind said: "You see how many great players we have in the squad – not only those who are on the pitch but off the pitch. You see how creative they are and pass the ball to each other and create a lot of chances. For any opponent it is difficult because of the movement of the players."
Difficult, especially last night, because of that man Rooney. "He is a great player and not only tonight," added Blind. "He is a legend at United."