Door open for new Ibra deal: Mourinho
The injury prompted United to shelve plans to exercise an option to give Zlatan a second season with the club
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be given the chance to resurrect his Manchester United career as he battles back from a serious knee injury, manager Jose Mourinho confirmed on Friday.
Swedish star Ibrahimovic was United’s top-scorer last season, bagging 28 goals in all competitions.
However, the 35-year-old’s future was cast into doubt after he suffered a double cruciate ligament injury in April, cutting short a successful first season.
The injury prompted United to shelve plans to exercise an option to give Zlatan a second season with the club, with the player officially released last month.
However, the Swede has impressed United with the pace of his recovery and the striker has been allowed to use the club’s facilities to help his rehabilitation.
Mourinho, speaking ahead of United’s opening US tour game against Los Angeles Galaxy, said Ibrahimovic could yet return the club next season.
“It’s possible, it’s open,” Mourinho said.
Although Ibrahimovic had been linked to a move to Major League Soccer, Mourinho said the forward had indicated he wanted to continue to play at “the highest level.”
“From his point of view, he made the decision of wanting to play football still at the highest level,” Mourinho said.
“He didn’t want to hide behind such an amazing injury. It would be easy to hide behind it and stop and go to a different level of football.
“He did not want that, he was not happy with his finish (to the season) and not playing. He made the challenge for himself to keep playing at the highest level.
“So we open our door for him to recover with us, at Old Trafford, at Carrington.”
Mourinho indicated a decision on a new contract for Ibrahimovic would likely be taken closer to him regaining full fitness. Recovery from Ibrahimovic’s injury is typically between nine to 12 months.
“Let’s make a decision that makes us all happy and if that is for him to stay, and for us to wait, let’s say in December – 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?” Mourinho said.
“We are changing ideas and it’s with (United executive vice-chairman) Ed Woodward and Zlatan’s agent but the final decision is the best for the player.”
Meanwhile, Mourinho said Romelu Lukaku had been targeted because of his proven track record of scoring in the Premier League during spells with Everton and West Bromwich Albion.
“Obviously there are other good strikers in football but the Premier League is a very specific habitat and a difficult habitat for strikers,” Mourinho said.
“Normally they need some time to adapt. And Lukaku plays in the Premier League for the last four or five seasons. I think he comes at the right moment of his career because he’s still a young player but he has years of experience in the Premier League also with the Belgian national team.”
Mourinho agreed that he hoped Lukaku would help the team turn draws into wins.
“Let’s try,” he said. “He’s not a player that participates a lot in the build up. He’s a player that normally plays in the last third.
“We had many opponents especially at Old Trafford that decided clearly to defend in their defensive third, closing spaces, playing with lots of defensive midfield players.
“I think especially in the Premier League we need a target man which is not (Anthony) Martial or (Marcus) Rashford. We have good options. Good players.
“But target man, a clear No.9 , the one that is comfortable to play in the box, with his back to the defenisve line? We thought Romelu would be a very good option for us.”
Mourinho meanwhile said he had played little role in the transfer negotiations, phoning the player only to assure him he would be an integral part of his plans.
“The only thing I did was to call him when the situation was almost there just to guarantee him that he would be an important player in my team,” Mourinho said.
The United boss also insisted he enjoyed a strong relationship with Lukaku despite reported tensions between the two during an earlier spell at Chelsea.
Mourinho had questioned Lukaku’s “mentality” during their time at Stamford Bridge but on Friday said the two had remained on good terms.
“During that time where I was at Chelsea and at Man Utd and he was at Everton, our relationship was always very close,” Mourinho said.
“The relationship was always very good. He’s intelligent, he’s polite. There was good feeling. And now we are back in different moments of his career and my career, in different circumstances. And I’ve no doubt that it’s going to work.”
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