Zlatan Ibrahimovic can still have a role to play for Manchester United should he indeed re-join the club this season despite the early season form of Romelu Lukaku, according to former Manchester City and England boss Stuart Pearce.
The Mail on Sunday reported over the weekend that the ex-Sweden captain could complete his return to Old Trafford as early as this month, with the club keen to sign him up amid interest from Serie A giants AC Milan and Major League Soccer outfit Los Angeles Galaxy.
Ibrahimovic has been recovering from a knee injury which saw him miss the last two months of last season and led to him being included on United's release list at the end of the campaign. But having made significant progress in his recovery while using the club's Carrington training ground, a return is in the offing.
The injury and subsequent departure of Ibrahimovic has been offset by the arrival of Lukaku from Everton for an initial £75m, with the Belgium international hitting the ground running in the early weeks of his United career. Having netted the second goal in the 4-0 hammering of Swansea City, Lukaku has now netted in each of his first three appearances for his new club.
Anthony Martial has also strengthened his position at United with goals off the bench against both Swansea and opening weekend opponents West Ham United, while Marcus Rashford has begun both of the Premier League games in attack. But despite the range of options available to Jose Mourinho, Pearce believes the Champions League will offer Ibrahimovic an opportunity to make an impression in his so-called second coming.
"[He's] a good alternative," Pearce told Sky Sports. "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."
Reports indicate that the terms which Ibrahimovic will be offered by United will be significantly reduced from last season when he joined on a free from Paris Saint-Germain. During his so-far only season at United he earned a basic wage of £367,640-per-week and was also entitled to a goal bonus worth £2.86m, bringing the total deal to £19.11m, according to Football Leaks: The Dirty Business of Football.
However, he more than repaid the investment, plundering 28 goals in all competitions as United won the EFL Cup, the Europa League and returned to the Champions League in Mourinho's first campaign at the helm.