Wednesday 21 February 2018

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will still be at Manchester United next term - Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho, right, expects Zlatan Ibrahimovic, left, to still be a Manchester United player next term
Jose Mourinho, right, expects Zlatan Ibrahimovic, left, to still be a Manchester United player next term

Jose Mourinho is convinced Zlatan Ibrahimovic will still be at Old Trafford next season - a campaign the Manchester United manager believes could be the striker's last at the "highest level".

The 35-year-old has made a mockery of the doubters since arriving in the summer, with last weekend's strike against Leicester seeing him become the first United player since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement to reach 20 goals.

Ibrahimovic has plenty of time to extend that record given United are still fighting on four fronts and it appears a matter of when rather than if the one-year option in his contract is triggered to extend his deal beyond the summer.

The striker has, though, been linked to Napoli, along with clubs in China and the United States - not that Mourinho imagines such a move will come to fruition.

In fact, the United manager believes Ibrahimovic will be determined to make the most of what could be his final year at the peak of his powers.

"I'm totally convinced that he is going to stay," Mourinho said. "He came with the intention of staying two years.

"The first year is going - probably not in his mind because he is a very ambitious guy - better than every expectation.

"He knows that we are going to try again to improve next season and try to share with him in a fantastic way probably the last year of his career at the highest level, so I'm convinced that he's staying.

"He's also adapted to the club, he's adapted to the situation. I don't see any problem with his family.

"I give him the possibility of an extra day off to go somewhere, to go Sweden - he doesn't want, he never goes. Everything is stable with him, so I'm totally convinced that he is going to stay."

Ibrahimovic has impressed consistently since arriving over the summer, joining United along with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly and Paul Pogba.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has promised to again improve United's squad ahead of the 2017-18 season, but told investors that the transfer window will not see the same "churn" of players.

Mourinho joked that Woodward has taught him a new word when quizzed about Thursday's comments, which the manager echoed before suggesting as many as four new players could arrive this summer.

"First of all, yesterday I had to ask a friend about 'churn' because I had no idea - it's a new word for my vocabulary," he said, smiling. "You have to learn every time you can and I thank Ed for that word because I didn't have an idea.

"I think he's completely right, of course we speak about it, of course we speak about 'what next?' and we know that we have a squad that, like every squad, needs changes.

"But we know also that our squad has potential, our squad has good players, many of them in the best age, in age of evolution.

"Independent of the numbers, independent of can we spend one, 10 or 100 (million pounds), it's also the philosophy, the idea and we look at it in this way.

"We prefer to bring two, three or four players, but good players. Players that feel an idea, a football that we try to play, that can improve our squad.

"We are not interested in selling six or seven and buy six or seven, and from this six or seven only one or two are great quality. All the others are the same as the ones we are selling

"We are not going to play this game, we are stable, so we think our market in the summer will be soft, will be natural.

"Some players to leave, some players to come but in a very natural way, so I think the word Ed used was a good one."

While summer transfer plans are afoot, Mourinho's main focus right now is Saturday's clash with Watford at Old Trafford.

The Portuguese was infuriated by aspects of September's 3-1 loss at Vicarage Road - United's third defeat in the space of a week and what has been one of their worst displays of the campaign so far.

Phil Jones will be the only first-team player missing when United attempt to exact revenge and close the gap on the top four.

"They are very difficult," Mourinho said of Walter Mazzarri's side. "They are very defensive but there are teams that are very defensive but not very well organised. That's not Watford's case.

"Walter is a very good coach, the team is well organised and then they have the capacity being dangerous on the counter-attack and at set-pieces with a very physical team.

"Many players played already in big teams. They have the know-how, they have the experience.

"Many players are coming from Italian football, important clubs - Napoli, Milan, Udinese - with great knowledge of high competition, so the team is very experienced, so I am waiting for a difficult match."

Press Association

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