So near, yet so far: Ibrahimovic falls short of Messi's 2016 goal record

The referee denied Zlatan the chance to draw level with his ex-Barcelona team-mate, as did Victor Valdes who helped keep the striker quiet at Old Trafford

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be ruing Lee Mason's whistle as the Manchester United striker fell agonisingly short of equalling Lionel Messi's 2016 club landmark. 

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The Barcelona star is currently the top scorer in any of the top five European leagues, having netted 51 goals over the course of the calendar year. 

Ibra, however, had the chance to take advantage of La Liga's winter break and draw level with the Argentine on the final day of 2016 against Middlesbrough. 

The Swede, who reached his half-century on Boxing Day against Sunderland with 17 goals for United and 33 for Paris Saint-Germain, did not disappoint as his karate kick effort beat Victor Valdes early on. 

But joy turned to despair for Zlatan, as he saw referee Mason rule out the effort for alleged dangerous play. 

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That means the striker finishes the year in second place, behind his former team-mate and having failed to (legitimately) breach the net of another ex-Barca colleague. 

Valdes certainly did his part to keep Messi's record intact, saving twice from Ibra who took a total of four shots over the 90 minutes. 

And, while he won't be too happy at the one that got away, a thrilling 2-1 comeback victory for United to move within spitting distance of the top four means Zlatan should bounce back just fine in time for 2017.