Zlatan Ibrahimovic says Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney is “the perfect player” and deserves more respect, after the England captain broke the club’s European goalscoring record in a 4-0 win over Feyenoord.
Rooney, 31, scored his 39th European goal as United won to ensure a point in their final group game at Zorya Luhansk will take them into the last 32 of the Europa League.
It comes after Rooney, who is one goal away from matching Sir Bobby Charlton’s club-record 249 goals, defended himself following criticism of his late night while on England duty.
“He is a fantastic person,” Ibrahimovic, who assisted Rooney’s chipped opener, told BBC Sport. “I am happy he broke the record. But I will help him to go one more. That I see as the real record.”
Rooney apologised last week about “inappropriate” pictures of him at a wedding at the national team’s hotel during the international break.
But on Saturday he said the reporting showed “a lack of respect”, adding: “It feels as if the media are trying to write my obituary.”
He was annoyed to be asked about it again after the Feyenoord game, saying: “All that’s created by people like yourself asking questions, making a big deal out of nothing.
“I didn’t set foot in the wedding and it’s a shame to have to speak about it on nights like this.”
Ibrahimovic said: “I think when you are famous like that, people are interested. They want to know everything.
“We should appreciate him for the player he is, what he did. I don’t see many players from England who have had the same career as him. They should show more respect for him. Everybody wants to make a little thing a big thing.”
Manager Jose Mourinho said: “People like him doesn’t need to answer any more, just enjoy a few more years of his career and playing the best he can.”
‘Mkhitaryan needs to replicate this’
United attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan made only his second start for the club following his £26m summer move from Borussia Dortmund.
The 27-year-old Armenian, who has been told by Mourinho he needs to adapt to the English game, impressed during his 82 minutes, on his second club appearance since 10 September.
“He just needs now to replicate this kind of performance in the Premier League,” said Mourinho. “The Premier League is different, he needs one more step.
“Confidence levels are higher. This performance gives him the right to believe he can play the next match again. The Premier League has more physicality but we know the quality, why we bought him.
“He is a player with a high level of technical quality, very intelligent, very bright with the way he reads the game so very good for him.”
Mkhitaryan said: “It was a pleasure to play again. It’s been very difficult watching the team from the side but you have to have passion and work hard to try and take your next chance.”
Asked if it was a new start, he said: “I hope so.”
United try to add new trophy to cabinet
Goals from Rooney, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard, plus a Brad Jones own goal, took United to the brink of the knockout stages.
The Red Devils have won the European Cup/Champions League three times and the Cup Winners’ Cup once. However they have never won the Uefa Cup or Europa League.
“It [Rooney’s record] is an amazing achievement and will be even better if he can help bring to the club the only competition never won in their history,” said Mourinho. “It’s not the biggest competition obviously but it’s a competition United’s history doesn’t have, so let’s try to qualify.”
Ibrahimovic, who has never won a major European trophy, said: “If we can win it, it would be fantastic. At the end of your career, you can look back and see how many trophies you have collected.
“The philosophy of the club is to win trophies. As long as we are in it, we will try to win it.”
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