Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a step closer to rejoining Manchester United after ramping up his recovery from a serious knee injury. The former Sweden captain was released at the end of the season after missing the last month of the campaign with a cruciate ligament injury, which threatened to bring a premature end to his career.
The 35-year-old has been using the club's Carrington training base for his recovery, rather than working abroad, and reports last month suggested that should his rehabilitation progress well then a short-term deal starting in January could be in the offing.
And according to The Sun, with United's medical team "amazed" at Ibrahimovic's progress less than three months after suffering the injury, a temporary deal is viewed as inevitable. The ex-Barcelona and Juventus forward is well ahead of schedule in his recuperation and could yet figure in the majority of the campaign under Jose Mourinho.
The publication adds that new signing Romelu Lukaku had to ask permission from Ibrahimovic to wear the number nine shirt – which he has vacated – raising the tantalising possibility that his tenure at United is not yet at an end.
After arriving on a free last summer, Ibrahimovic played a central role in United winning three trophies and returning to the Champions League. He scored 28 goals in all competitions, including in the Community Shield against Leicester City and the English League Cup final against Southampton. Mourinho also scooped the Europa League in his first season in charge, helped in part by Ibrahimovic's five goals during the competition before they beat Ajax in Stockholm.
But Ibrahimovic's exploits came at a price, with United paying out over £19m in wages and bonuses. According to Football Leaks: The Dirty Business of Football Ibrahimovic earned a basis wage of £367,640-per-week during his one season with United and was also entitled to a goal bonus worth £2.86m.
Whether Ibrahimovic rejoins on those terms remains to be seen but it would surely deter the club from making a big-money move for another forward this summer. Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata and Torino's Andrea Belotti have both been linked with moves to United, but those rumours could soon be put to bed.