'His only focus was on the ball' - Howe defends gentle giant Mings over Ibrahimovic stamp

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The defender has been unfairly misrepresented as a viscous player, with his boss stating he never intended to cause harm to the Manchester United star

Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe defended Tyrone Mings after he was handed a five-match ban for appearing to stamp on Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic's head.

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The incident occurred during last Saturday's 1-1 Premier League draw between the sides, but was not punished by referee Kevin Friend at the time.

Ibrahimovic will serve a three-match ban after appearing to elbow Mings shortly after the alleged stamp, but Howe insisted the defender had not deliberately set out to hurt the veteran Swede.

"We are disappointed for Tyrone, we feel it was accidental," Howe said at a press conference ahead of Saturday's home match with West Ham.

"I don't think he has that kind of streak in him. Although he is a beast in stature he is certainly a gentle giant on and off the pitch. It's a real shame for him.

"I see a defender who has made a very good tackle trying to get back to his goal as quickly as possible. His focus is on the ball, not on what lies beneath him.

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"You can make any interpretation you want, you can see what you want to see, but I think people who understand the game to a really high level - especially being a defender myself - will know that your only priority is to defend your goal."

Mings' suspension leaves Bournemouth short of options at the back, with Howe hoping to welcome back Simon Francis from injury, while youngster Baily Cargill is an alternative in defence.

"We'll wait and see," said Howe when asked about his team selection. "There have been a couple of positives this week. Simon Francis is not far away and Baily Cargill came on and did very well on his time on the pitch last week.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Tyrone Mings

"Tyrone's suspension leaves us short with just a few games to go but we have to pick ourselves up and move on as best we can.

"We'll make a late decision [on Francis]. He's done well since Manchester City and he's improving every day, we'll make a late call on his availability. But we have no doubts over Baily, his appearance went under the radar with everything that happened at Old Trafford."

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