Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has opened the door for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to return to Old Trafford before the end of the year after admitting that it is still “possible” for the striker to agree a new contract with the club.
The Swedish superstar joined United last summer on a free transfer and made a stunning impact in his debut season in English football despite initial doubts in the wider media regarding his age and mobility. He ended the campaign as United’s top goal scorer having netted 28 times in all competitions and was praised for being a positive influence in the dressing room for the younger members of the first team squad.
However, Ibrahimovic’s season ended prematurely after his picked up a serious knee injury in a Europa League tie in April. There were concerns that the 36-year-old’s career could be over although it has been revealed over the last two months that the striker’s recovery and rehabilitation has been incredibly successful. The charismatic Swede reportedly is determined to continue playing at the highest level.
Ibrahimovic was released at the start of the summer after his contract expired, with it being seemingly unlikely that a new deal would be offered by the club. United have allowed the striker to continue his recuperation as the club’s Carrington training base as a courteous gesture despite his status as a free agent but have signed Everton forward Romelu Lukaku for £75 million (as per BBC Sport) as a direct replacement.
Despite the uncertainty and lack of activity regarding the 36-year-old’s future, The Guardian are reporting that Jose Mourinho is still open to the possibility of the striker re-signing for United. Discussing the prospect of a new contract the Portuguese coach explained:
“[It’s] possible, it’s open. There was not a new contract [to allow] time for everybody to think, feel and decide. From his point of view he made the decision of wanting to play football still at the highest level. He didn’t want to hide behind such an amazing [serious] injury. … He made the challenge for himself to keep playing at the highest level”.
However, Mourinho suggested that there could be no agreement between the club and the player until Christmas when Ibrahimovic is expected to return to full fitness.
“We open our door for him to recover with us, and at the same time let’s make a decision that makes us all happy. If that is for him to stay and for us to wait, let’s say, until December maybe .. because I don’t think before December he can get back to competitive football. But why not wait for a player who gave us so much?”
Do United still need Zlatan?
Whilst Jose Mourinho may have opened the door for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to return it is unclear whether such a move would be beneficial for all involved.
The signing of Romelu Lukaku for £75 million last week from Everton now means that Manchester United already have a marquee striker to use as the spearhead of their attack next season. After making such a heavy investment in one player it is unlikely that the club hierarchy would be content to see the Belgian as anything other than first-choice. United also have an abundance of offensive options to utilise. In addition to Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan could all be used in the central position that Ibrahimovic filled so effectively last year.
With competition for a place leading the United attack already so fierce and a new multi-million pound forward recently purchased, Mourinho does not necessarily require the services of a currently injured 36-year-old striker. It is also unlikely that Ibrahimovic, who is notoriously charismatic, confident and self-assured, would be want anything other than regular first team football when he returns to full fitness at Christmas.
However, the Swede’s return may provide a useful input of energy and experience for the second half of the season when United could end up competing for four separate trophies. There is also the possibility that injuries to other personnel or additional departures – it is unlikely that Martial will be content with another season on the bench – could reopen a gap for Ibrahimovic to fill. The striker certainly still possess the ability to compete at the highest level, as proven by his 28 goals last season, so his return could turn out to be a shrewd piece of business if the timing is right.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic remains one of the star figures of world football and he has made it definitively clear that he wants to continue competing at the highest level. However, it remains to be seen whether that will be at Manchester United or an alternative club when he returns to action at the end of the year.
Featured image all rights reserved Hattori Hanzo.