While Galaxy wait, Jose Mourinho holds door open for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to Man United

Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates after the team's victory over Southampton in the English League Cup final on Feb. 26.
(Ian Kington / AFP / Getty Images)

While the Galaxy anxiously await Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s signature on a contract, the Swedish superstar’s former boss, Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho, said Friday he’s not so sure Ibrahimovic is ready to move on.

“We are speaking,” he said. “We are exchanging ideas.”

Ibrahimovic sustained a devastating knee injury in April, ending a season that saw him score 28 times in 46 games. But with his 36th birthday coming up in October, Ibrahimovic was released by Manchester United when his contract expired last month.

Earlier this week the team replaced its leading scoring by signing Everton striker Romelu Lukaku to a five-year deal, then completed the transaction by giving him Ibrahimovic’s No. 9 jersey.


The Galaxy quickly swooped in, offering Ibrahimovic a contract reported to be worth approximately $7.7 million a year, which would make him the highest paid player in MLS history. Ibrahimovic and his Italian-born agent Mino Raiola met to discuss their options over a lengthy dinner this week in Manchester, after which Ibrahimovic told photographers to expect a “huge announcement soon” regarding his playing future.

The Galaxy have been mum about the negotiations but have not denied reports that talks are taking place. So Mourinho filled the silence after Manchester United’s training session at UCLA on Friday, saying Ibrahimovic hasn’t closed the door on a Premier League comeback.

“Possible,” he said. “It’s open. We wanted to be honest and open … in case his desire was to leave. So there was a space of time for everybody to think, to feel, to decide.

“And from his point of view he made the decision [that] he wanted to play, still, football at the highest level. [He] didn’t want to hide behind such an amazing injury. It would be easy for him to hide behind it and to say, ‘It’s time to stop. It’s time to go to a different level of football.’ He wasn’t happy with the way he finished that season.”

Mourinho didn’t address reports of a Galaxy offer, nor did he say whether he considers MLS “a different level of football” from the Premier League. But others close to the team said privately that Manchester United has moved on, believing that re-signing Ibrahimovic would be a huge risk given his age, the recent injury and his declining play in the second half of last season.

Nonetheless, Mourinho, who also coached Ibrahimovic at Inter Milan and remains close to the player, said the Swede is rehabbing at Manchester United’s Carrington training ground and, in the coach’s eyes, remains part of the team.

“We opened our door for him to recover with us,” he said. “At the same time, let’s make a decision that makes us all happy. And if that decision is for him to stay and for us to wait, let’s say, until December — I don’t think before December he can be back to competitive football — why not wait for such a good player who gave us so much?”

Twitter: @kbaxter11