Saturday 20 January 2018

Man United have released Zlatan... but here's why he could return to Old Trafford in 2018

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at Stadium of Light on April 9, 2017 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at Stadium of Light on April 9, 2017 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Confirmation that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been released by Manchester United did not come as any surprise on Friday - but this may not be the definitive end of his career at Old Trafford.

Ibrahimovic made a huge impression in his first season at United, with the 35-year-old forward scoring 28 goals as he helped Jose Mourinho’s side win the EFL Cup with two goals in the final against Southampton at Wembley in February.

The Swedish hit-man was also in fine form in their Europa League campaign until he ruptured knee ligaments in United’s quarter-final against Anderlecht in April, forcing him into a lengthy period of rehabilitation that is likely to rule him out for the rest of 2017.

Ibrahimovic’s injury has forced United to withdraw the offer of a new contract that was initially offered to the forward last December, with the vast wages and huge bonus scheme they handed the veteran last summer impossible to sustain as he will not be available for the first half of the season.

Yet United manager Mourinho has left the door open for Ibrahimovic to return to United in January’s transfer window, when he could be close to a return to action and may be able to boost what the club will hope is a sustained push for the Premier League title.

United’s failure to sign chief transfer target Antoine Griezmann and their stuttering attempts to capture Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata and Torino’s Andrea Belotti could mean that Ibrhimovic remains a viable option to make a return to United mid-way through next season.

And this evening the BBC has reported that Zlatan will complete his recovery at Man United before deciding on his future.

Ibrahimovic’s agent Mino Raiola has confirmed that he will speak with United chiefs before deciding on the next move for his client, with offers from China and America’s MLS believed to have come his way in recent months.

"We have talked, he has a lot of offers and ideas that we have to evaluate," Raiola told TalkSport.

"He’s had a fantastic time at United and it’s now up to us and the club to decide. We have a date for that but now is time to recover.

"He wants to stay in England and at the top. If he sees he is a valuable asset for United he will stay.

"But he knows he can valuable asset for other top clubs also. I think it is respectful to talk to Manchester United and see what all parties want."

Even though it appeared that Ibrahimovic’s release by United was the final chapter of his brief and glorious career at Old Trafford, there is still a chance that he could be back in a red shirt at the start of 2018.

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