Paul Pogba has claimed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic remains an influential figure at Manchester United amid speculation that Jose Mourinho could yet hand the veteran striker a new contract.

Ibrahimovic signed a one-year deal with the option of a further 12 months upon his arrival at Old Trafford last summer, but eventually featured on United's released list in June after suffering serious knee ligament damage during a Europa League quarter-final tie against Anderlecht. Such an injury required surgery and is expected to keep him sidelined for up to nine months.

Despite his official release, Ibrahimovic has been rehabilitating at United's Carrington training base and reports have claimed that he may be offered another short-term deal from January 2018 providing he makes a full recovery.

While Mourinho has since secured a new number nine in £75m ($97.6m) man Romelu Lukaku, he remains open to the possibility of the 35-year-old penning fresh terms.

"If the decision is to stay and wait until December - he can't be back until them - why not wait? We are speaking and changing ideas," the manager said earlier this month.

Pogba and Ibrahimovic were the headline arrivals of Mourinho's first transfer window in charge of United and enjoyed a positive relationship at Old Trafford. Speaking during a press conference held in Washington DC before United meet Barcelona in a final International Champions Cup clash at FedEx Field on Wednesday night (26 July), the Frenchman appeared to suggest that his friend's influence was still being felt.

"Obviously Zlatan is a leader, always a big leader, and he's a big leader because he's still in the team," Pogba told reporters. "Even though he's not playing he's a leader outside of the pitch.

"I've been playing for one season, I came here to hopefully be a leader in the team. That's not the objective but that's how you should be. I've been here, we won, and you want to grow up as a player and a leader as well. I can learn from him, from [new captain Michael] Carrick, all the other players and become a leader."

With former skipper Wayne Rooney having returned to Everton and successor Carrick likely entering the final 12 months of an 11-year stint at United, Mourinho is backing Pogba to help plug the leadership void given his "big experience at such a young age".

Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrate Manchester United's 2016-17 Europa League triumph