Zlatan Ibrahimovic is on course to start his second coming at Manchester United before the end of the year, according to manager Jose Mourinho.

The ex-Sweden captain has been in rehabilitation following a serious knee injury picked up in the Europa League against Anderlecht in April.

Ibrahimovic was released by United due to the injury – despite scoring 28 goals in his maiden campaign in England – but signed a new one-year deal in August as he eyed a return to full fitness.

He returned to full training earlier this month and reports had suggested he was targeting the trip to Arsenal on 2 December as the date for his comeback.

But latest reports have implied he is in contention to face Newcastle United in the Premier League this weekend (18 November) and that Mourinho expects him to return before the end of the year.

"He is a lion, he is a fighter," the United boss said, according to Sky Sports. "I think that is a good description of him, he has the anger all the time and that's the reason why he's almost coming back.

"As we expect, he's reduced the timing of his recovering and, as we were saying a few weeks ago, he will be back in 2017, which is a magnificent recovery."

Despite missing the final month of the campaign, Ibrahimovic was hugely influential in United winning the Europa League – which provided passage into the Champions League – and the EFL Cup, after scoring twice in the final against Southampton.

But since his last United outing some seven months ago the club have brought in Romelu Lukaku from Everton, while Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are enjoying impressive campaigns.

Ex-England boss Stuart Pearce believes Mourinho could call on Ibrahimovic, formerly of Barcelona and Juventus, to play in the Champions League instead of Lukaku.

"[He's] a good alternative," Pearce told Sky Sports after Ibrahimovic's return was confirmed. "Whether Mourinho will play them both together or just divvy them up and play one one week and one the next week, or just for certain games.

"They've got Champions League football this year, some real high-profile matches, and certainly Mourinho prioritises every bit of silverware he can get his hands on. Whatever it is, he likes to win things, so he's going to need a big squad of players. And this player, when he walks through the door, he demands respect and he'll get that from them there."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Ibrahimovic scored 28 goals for United last season. Getty Images