Manchester United forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic could turn out for Jose Mourinho's men before the end of the year and is set to return to first-team training next month after making strong progress in his recovery from a serious knee problem.
Ibrahimovic ruptured his anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments during United's semi-final clash against Anderlecht and was unexpected to be out until the new year, with some fearing that the Swede may even have to retire as a result of the injury.
Ibrahimovic quickly allayed those fears, though, and The Times report that United have been impressed by the veteran's rate of recovery and are planning to reintegrate him back into first-team training in November.
The former Barcelona and Inter Milan forward's rehabilitation has been split between United's training complex, an exclusive gym in Monte Carlo named Thirty Nine Sports and America, where he went under the knife. He will soon be solely based in Carrington and will gradually be eased back into full training with the help of United's medical team and his personal trainer, Dario Fort.
Ibrahimovic was initially released by the Red Devils in the summer because of his injury, but manager Jose Mourinho saw fit to offer his former cohort at the San Siro another one-year deal and will be encouraged by his proposed early return to action; the Portuguese did not expect the 36-year-old to be available until January.
The news of Ibrahimovic's nearing return will no doubt provide a welcome boost to United ahead of their clash with arch-rivals Liverpool, who have not enjoyed the same recent luck with injuries - Reds talisman Sadio Mane is set to miss the next six weeks with a hamstring injury.
Ibrahimovic will not feature against Liverpool at Anfield, but star striker Romelu Lukaku is poised to start after recovering from a minor ankle problem. The game is set to come too soon for Paul Pogba, who has returned to light training after suffering a hamstring problem in United's Champions League clash with Basel, while Marouane Fellaini is set for a spell on the sidelines after suffering knee ligament damage on international duty.