Sunday 21 January 2018

Zlatan Ibrahimovic set to kick off Mourinho’s United rebuild

Swedish superstar primed for Old Trafford switch as Van Gaal regime nears endgame

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jose Mourinho
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho is back in the spotlight as he leaves his home in London yesterday. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

Jason Burt and James Ducker

Jose Mourinho is expected to make Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic one of his first signings as Manchester United manager as the club prepare to confirm in the next 72 hours that the Portuguese has succeeded Louis van Gaal.

Jorge Mendes, Mourinho’s agent, is due to leave China today with a view to arriving in England tomorrow to finalise the personal terms of the former Chelsea manager’s contract with United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

An announcement could then be made on Wednesday, although the situation is thought to be fluid.

Van Gaal responded by saying, “No, no, it’s over” when asked for comment by a Sky Sports reporter yesterday as he left the Corinthia hotel in central London, where the United squad had stayed and celebrated long into the night after Saturday’s 2-1 extra-time victory over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final,  before travelling back to Manchester by train with his players and staff.

 But Van Gaal is said to have been referring to his side’s season rather than his own job and it is thought Woodward had yet to inform the manager as of yesterday afternoon that he will be replaced by Mourinho, who is expected to bring trusted assistants Rui Faria and Silvino Louro with him to United.

It remains to be seen if Ryan Giggs, Van Gaal’s No 2, is offered or accepts a coaching role.


Despite the Cup triumph, United failed to qualify for the Champions League, scoring just 49 goals en route to a fifth-placed finish in the Premier League, and Van Gaal’s risk-averse style of football has alienated fans and baffled players, several of whom were ready to consider their futures in the event the manager stayed.

Goalkeeper David de Gea is expected to stay at Old Trafford now Van Gaal is going and the Spaniard is likely to be joined at the club by Ibrahimovic, who should form part of another significant summer of investment in the squad.

Ibrahimovic will leave PSG as a free agent after failing to agree a new 12-month extension with the French champions and the Sweden striker – who is eager to play in the Premier League – has been enthused by the prospect of a reunion with Mourinho.

In contrast to his relationship with Van Gaal, with whom he fell out at Ajax, Ibrahimovic has a close connection with Mourinho dating back to their time together at Inter Milan, when they won the Italian championship in 2009 before the player left for Barcelona.

Ibrahimovic has already spurned a hugely lucrative offer to join the Chinese Super League and LA Galaxy have also been keen to sign the 34-year-old but he would prefer to move to the MLS after playing at least one season in England and United are prepared to meet his wage demands.

The Swede is believed to have been asking for a salary equivalent to the £300,000 a week after tax deal he earned at PSG.

Mourinho will also target a centre-half, at least one central midfielder, a fast, right-sided forward and a striker.

United retain an interest in Sadio Mane, the Southampton forward for whom they had a £20m bid rejected last summer.

Mourinho is also keen to entice John Stones to Old Trafford, having tried and failed to sign the England centre-half from Everton when in charge at Chelsea last summer, although United face stiff competition from the Portuguese’s former club and Manchester City. PSG defender Marquinhos is another potential target.

Sporting Lisbon midfielder Joao Mario has been watched by United but is also interesting Chelsea and PSG and James Rodriguez, the Colombia striker, faces an uncertain future at Real Madrid.

Ibrahimovic aside, United believe Mourinho’s arrival will enhance their prospects of attracting leading players, which has been hampered to some degree by the club’s failure to qualify for the Champions League for a second time in three seasons.

One concern for United, though, is the forthcoming full public employment tribunal of former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro. Carneiro’s constructive dismissal case against Chelsea is due to be heard on June 6 and could prove publicly damaging to Mourinho.

Mourinho’s impending appointment will raise questions over Juan Mata’s future given that the manager sold him to United from Chelsea in January 2014.

Wingers Adnan Januzaj and Memphis Depay, who reacted badly to being omitted the Cup final squad, have both received criticism about their attitudes and will have to convince Mourinho they deserve to stay.

Michael Carrick believes he has played his last game for United with his contract expiring next month.

Wayne Rooney is anxious to gauge Mourinho’s reaction to him after the striker rejected the chance to join the Portuguese at Chelsea in order to commit himself to United.

Rooney said he thought it was “unfair after we have just won the Cup to speak about the manager’s future” but he believes the Palace victory could serve as a springboard, even though the captain admitted there would have to be a huge improvement at the club next season.

“There has to be (a big improvement),” he said.

“Certainly in the Premier League, it wasn’t good enough, we dropped too many points. We finished where we deserved to finish so we have to improve on that, we know that.


“It could be a really important moment for us. Obviously it is the first trophy since Sir Alex (Ferguson) was here, but there are a lot of young players in this squad.

“I remember winning my first trophy at this club and it spurs you on, it gives you that desire and belief that you can go on and win more. Hopefully that is what they will feel now.”

Meanwhile, Everton are due to hold talks this week with Unai Emery after the Sevilla coach emerged as a leading contender to replace Roberto Martínez as manager at Goodison Park.

Emery led Sevilla to a third successive Europa League title last Wednesday when the Spanish

club beat Everton’s fierce Merseyside rivals, Liverpool, 3-1 in the final in Switzerland.

David Moyes is the front-runner to take over at Aston Villa after meeting the club’s prospective new owner Dr Tony Xia. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Changes ahead when the Jose era begins

Q: Who is Jose Mourinho likely to sign this summer?

A: Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out of contract at Paris St-Germain next month and seems likely to move to Old Trafford as a free agent. The Sweden striker (34) won Serie A under Mourinho at Inter Milan.

Southampton forward Sadio Mané remains on United’s radar and Mourinho is likely to make another bid for Everton’s John Stones, having failed to bring him to Chelsea last summer. Colombia striker James Rodríguez could leave Real Madrid this summer and has been linked with United.

Q: What about the make-up of Mourinho’s backroom staff?

A: The Portuguese will bring his long-term assistant, Rui Faria, with him – as well as long-standing goalkeeping coach, Silvino Louro.

Faria has worked with Mourinho for the past 15 years at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid after first being employed as a fitness coach at Portuguese club União de Leiria.

Mourinho has described him as his “methodology right arm, the guy that understands best my information and the way I work”.

Q: Will there be a place for Ryan Giggs, then?

A: Mourinho is thought to be open to the idea of having a former United player on his coaching staff, and if Giggs wants to stay as a No 2 – a role he performed under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal – then the incoming manager is expected to be receptive to that.

But Giggs is believed to be unsure about the prospect of a third stint as an assistant, and will weigh up whether the time has now come for him to cut his managerial teeth.

By the same token, the former United winger is conscious that if he leaves and struggles somewhere else, it could damage – or even kill – his prospects of one day getting the United manager’s job.

Q: Who of United’s players face an uncertain future?

A: David de Gea is more likely to stay at Old Trafford now van Gaal is going and Mourinho is coming in, but doubts surround the futures of Juan Mata – whom the Portuguese sold to United from Chelsea in January 2014 – injury-plagued defender Phil Jones, and wingers Adnan Januzaj and Memphis Depay.

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