Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney is “the perfect player” and deserves more respect from the media, according to team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Rooney produced arguably his best display of the season in Thursday’s 4-0 Europa League win over Feyenoord, in which he scored the opening goal before setting up Juan Mata for the second.
The performance came in the wake of a difficult spell in the 31-year-old’s career, with uncertainty around his place in the United and England starting line-ups exacerbated when pictures emerged showing him looking worse for wear at a wedding reception following the 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Scotland.
Rooney himself hit out at the media coverage of that incident, and Ibrahimovic has some sympathy for the way in which his captain has been under scrutiny.
“First of all, as a person, he’s fantastic,” he said of Rooney, who became United’s leading goalscorer in European competition with his Feyenoord strike.
“I had the luck to get to know the person. As a player, there are no words. He’s the perfect player: everybody knows what he can do and what he has done.
“When you’re a person like that, people are interested. I don’t know what happened [on England duty] and I didn’t even ask him because it’s not important for me, and I’m 100 per cent sure that the media doesn’t know what really happened.
“I think we should appreciate the player he is. I don’t see many players from England who have had the career he has, so I feel a little bit sorry for the situation, we should show more respect for him. Everybody wants to make a little thing a big thing. But I’m used to that from Sweden. So I don’t mind.”
Ibrahimovic, whose cross was turned into his own net by Brad Jones for United’s third, says winning the Europa League would be a major boost for the club.
“I think every trophy is important, that’s what we’re playing for,” he said. “We try to win every tournament we’re in. It would be fantastic if I could win it.
“For me, the more trophies you can collect, the nicer it is, because after your career you can look back and see how many trophies you have collected.
“I think he [manager Jose Mourinho] wants to win it, just like the players. The philosophy is to win trophies. As long as we’re in it, we’ll try to win it.”