MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester United’s Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is expected to leave the club at the end of the season, manager Jose Mourinho told a news conference on Friday.
The 36-year-old Ibrahimovic, who joined United in 2016 and is out of contract after this campaign, has been linked by the British media with a move to Major League Soccer team LA Galaxy.
Mourinho said Ibrahimovic could leave Old Trafford in May but did not know whether the Swede would call time on his career or look for a new challenge in a different league.
“For Zlatan, we all think it’s his last season at Manchester United and it will be a very personal decision for him to play or to stop,” Mourinho said.
“I think he has won 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 (had) with us.”
Ibrahimovic, who said on Thursday he had not closed the door on playing at this year’s World Cup, has not featured for United since a 45-minute cameo versus Burnley in the Premier League last December following a serious knee injury.
He was United’s top scorer last season with 28 goals in 46 appearances, helping them win the League Cup and Europa League.
“This season has been really difficult for him,” Mourinho said. “He’s not injured. Does he feel totally happy, ready and convinced that he’s in 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.”
Marouane Fellaini is also expected to become a free agent at the end of the campaign but Mourinho is hopeful the midfielder could sign a longer deal, wary that this could be the player’s last major contract.
The 30-year-old Belgium international’s previous outing was against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium in January, when he was forced off with a knee problem.
“Fellaini is a different story. He’s still a young player, he had his injury and had a minor surgery, and he will be back to play again in a couple of weeks,” Mourinho added.
“Is he going to stay or leave? I don’t know, but I want him to stay and the club want him to stay.”
United, who are second in the Premier League but 16 points adrift of Manchester City, visit Crystal Palace on Monday.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar