Manchester United expect Zlatan Ibrahimovic to leave Old Trafford at the end of the season, Jose Mourinho has confirmed.
The Swedish star has only made seven appearances this campaign and has not played since Boxing Day as he battles to recover from a ruptured cruciate ligament in his right knee sustained last April.
The injury ended Ibrahimovic’s first season at Old Trafford after he had scored 28 goals, and it remains to be seen if he plays for United again.
The 36-year-old striker is back in training but Mourinho accepts that he will be leaving at the end of his contract in the summer with a move to LA Galaxy among the options believed to be on the table.
He said: ‘For Zlatan, we all think it’s his last season at Manchester United. It will be a very personal decision for him to play or to stop. I think he wants the right of choosing his life, his future. Such an amazing player and amazing career that only that awful injury in the wrong moment broke a fantastic couple of seasons he could and should have with us.
‘This season it has been really difficult for him. He’s not injured. Does he feel totally happy? Ready and convinced that he’s in the condition to help the team in this moment? No.
‘But he’s such an honest guy and such a champion he only wants to be back with that feeling of “I’m totally ready for it”. So he’s working hard and hopefully his evolution brings him to that level he wants to have a positive answer.’
Ibrahimovic is one of six players ruled out of Monday’s trip to Crystal Palace with Ander Herrera, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and Marouane Fellaini also sidelined.
Sunday’s win over Chelsea put United back into second place but the battle for a top-four finish is set to continue right to end of the season.
‘The gap is a very short gap,’ admitted Mourinho. ‘Six points between second and fifth is really short and open for everybody, but all four (United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea) are in the Champions League still so we have other focus, other targets.
‘I have to say all of us are very good teams. In spite of sometimes the way I read, it looks like all the others are better than us, but I’m not sure that’s the reality. So I would say four very good teams and one will be out of the Champions League (placings).
‘If you ask me second or fourth, I say from the financial point of view it doesn’t make a difference. From the prestige point of view it doesn’t make a difference. You go to the Champions League and the fourth doesn’t even now have to play the last qualification.
‘But from the personal point of view, second is better than third so we are going to try the best possible. Of course, the top four is very difficult and that’s the main target for us, but if you can finish second we won’t finish third.’