Zlatan Ibrahimovic set for a tough road back at age of 35

Man United striker suffered ‘significant knee-ligament damage’ on Thursday

Manchester United have announced that Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo both suffered “significant knee ligament damage” in Thursday’s Europa League win over Anderlecht. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Manchester United have announced that Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo both suffered “significant knee ligament damage” in Thursday’s Europa League win over Anderlecht. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is beginning a “really hard” rehabilitation process from his knee ligament injury because of his age, according to Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho.

The 35-year-old Swede and defender Marcos Rojo have both suffered what their club have termed “significant knee-ligament damage”, with the former’s United future in jeopardy given his deal expires this summer.

Whether he even returns to the game at all is not a question Mourinho is contemplating, but he did concede that, at this stage of his career, Ibrahimovic’s road to recovery is a long one.

Speaking to Sky Sports prior to United’s 2-0 win over Burnley on Sunday, Mourinho said: “The injuries are really big. No player deserves to be injured, but these two cases are even more sad.

“Zlatan, in this phase of his career, it is really hard and Marcos was in the best moment of his career, playing very well for us and finally getting a position as a central defender in the national team. It’s really sad for them.

“I know (how long they will be out for), but it is for the medical department to be more specific and they prefer to wait a couple more days because the players want to see other specialists and to have an extra opinion and we have to respect that. But they are important injuries.”

Asked whether Ibrahimovic would play again, the Portuguese replied: “I don’t care about it in this moment, I just want the player to recover the best he can.”

Later on Sunday, Ibrahimovic posted a message on Instagram vowing to continue.

“First of all, thank you for all the support and love,” he wrote. “Its no news I got injured so I will be out of fotball for a while.

“I will go through this like everythings else and come back even stronger. So far I played with one leg so it shouldn’t be any problem. One thing is for sure, I decide when its time to stop and nothing else. Giving up is not an option. See you soon”

Ibrahimovic and Rojo have joined an injury list that Mourinho hopes will shorten by the time United face Manchester City on Thursday in a game that will see them break into the Premier League’s top four with victory.

That is because Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, who have been sidelined by respective foot and knee problems, have both told by their manager that, were he in their shoes, he would declare himself fit, having seen Eric Bailly play nine successive games.

“If I was Smalling or Jones, I would play Thursday, with anything, I would,” Mourinho added.

“I wouldn’t accept one guy to play nine matches in a row because I am injured. I would do a last push.

“If they have a crazy mentality like I have, they would (play on Thursday). If they are safe thinking and they are surrounded by people with the same mentality they have, it is more time, more cautious. If it was me, nobody would stop me to play.”

Paul Pogba will be assessed prior to the derby, with Mourinho unsure if his withdrawal at Turf Moor was the result of a problem or fatigue, but United’s injury-hit side will at least be imbued by the confidence of a 23-game unbeaten run in the Premier League after first-half goals from Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney saw them defeat Burnley.

While acknowledging their mental state, Mourinho reiterated that he is focused on their route to next season’s Champions League via Europa League success.

“We have 25 percent chance to win the Europa League and we have to put everything on it,” he said.

“I will rotate players again (on Thursday), give rest to some players again and let’s see what we can do. In terms of expectation, in terms of emotion for the game, it’s better for a derby with one point difference than with four.”

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