Zlatan Ibrahimovic has hailed Manchester United colleague Wayne Rooney as “the perfect player” and believes his club’s all-time leading scorer in Europe should be held in higher regard.
Rooney’s goal in the 4-0 Europa League win over Feyenoord on Thursday night was his 39th in continental competitions for United, a tally that saw him eclipse Ruud van Nistelrooy as the leading marksman in European games, and it also leaves him just one behind Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time haul of 249.
His latest effort, a delicious dink over Brad Jones, came just five days after he vowed he was “not finished yet” as an England international following the publication of images of the 31-year-old, in Three Lions’ gear, appearing worse for wear during the international break.
The furore that has followed The Sun’s report into England skipper’s Rooney’s night has rumbled on ever since, with the player denying he was even at the wedding postmatch on Thursday, and Ibrahimovic, perhaps the only player in United’s ranks who commands similar column inches, leapt to his fellow forward’s defence.
“I think when you’re a person like that, when you’re famous like that, people are interested, they want to know everything,” Ibrahimovic said.
“I don’t know what has happened, I didn’t even ask him because it’s not important for me and I’m 100 percent sure the media doesn’t know what really happened.
“I think 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. I feel a little bit sorry of the situation because we should show more respect for him. Everybody wants to make a little thing a big thing. I’m used to it from Sweden, I don’t mind it.”
It was the Swede who teed up Rooney for his record-breaking effort in the first half with a weighted pass into the area.
The two have rarely been seen in tandem with Rooney struggling to hold down a regular first-team place, but Ibrahimovic has assured him that he will do all he can to ensure United soon have a new name at the top of their all-time scorers.
“As a person he’s fantastic, I have the luck to get to know the person,” Ibrahimovic added of Rooney.
“As a player, there are no words to not say about him — he’s the perfect player. Everybody knows what he can do, what he did, what he has done. I’m happy for him to break the record and I will help him to go one more — then I see it as the real record.”
Victory for Jose Mourinho’s side means they need just a point against Zorya Luhansk in two weeks’ time to advance to the Europa League’s last 32.
Fixtures on Thursday nights are not the type that either United fans, Mourinho or Ibrahimovic himself are used to, but the latter, at 35, has also gone his entire career without winning a major European competition, despite title successes in Holland, Italy, Spain and France.
“Every trophy is important — that’s what you’re playing for,” the forward said.
“Every competition we are in, we are trying to win. If I could it, it would be fantastic. The more trophies you can collect, the nicer it is because you look back on your career and you see how many trophies you’ve collected.”
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