Manchester (AFP) – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho expects Zlatan Ibrahimovic to remain at Old Trafford next season despite speculation linking the Swedish striker with one last big-money transfer, he said on Friday.
Ibrahimovic, 35, has been a revelation in his first season in England, scoring 20 goals, and is expected to trigger the option of extending his contract by a year.
Napoli and clubs in China and the United States have been linked with the former Paris Saint-Germain striker in recent days, but Mourinho is confident he will remain in United red next season.
“I’m totally convinced he is going to stay,” Mourinho told reporters at United’s training base west of Manchester.
“He came with the intention to stay two years, but in the minds of everyone the first year is going better than every expectation.
“He knows we are going to try again to improve next season and try to share with him in a fantastic way probably the last year of his career at the highest level, so I’m convinced that he’s staying.
“He’s adapted to the club, to the situation. I don’t see any problem with his family. I gave him the possibility of a day off to go to Sweden. He doesn’t want (it). So I’m totally convinced he is going to stay.”
The United manager also joked about executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward’s use of the word “churn” during a conference call with investors to discuss the club’s latest financial results on Thursday.
Woodward said he was expecting to see less “churn” — turnover of first-team players — in the close season and Mourinho was in complete agreement with the approach outlined by his superior.
“First of all, yesterday I had to ask a friend about ‘churn’ because I had no idea. It’s a new word for my vocabulary,” Mourinho smiled.
“You have to learn every time you can and I thank Ed for that word because I didn’t have an idea.
“He’s completely right. Of course we speak about it. Of course we speak about what next and we know that we have a squad that like every squad needs changes.
“But we know also that our squad has potential, our squad has good players, many of them in the best age.”
– ‘Stable’ –
He added: “We prefer to bring two, three or four players, players that feel an idea, a football we try to play, that can improve our squad.
“We are not interested in signing six or seven or selling six or seven. We are not going to play this game.
“We are stable, so we think our market in the summer will be soft, will be natural. Some players to leave, some players to come, but in a very natural way, so I think the word Ed used was a good one.”
While rivals such as Manchester City are expected to make significant moves in the next transfer window, Mourinho says he intends to keep his squad largely as it is.
“You work with the players and you know the players better. You only know the players really when you work with them,” he said.
“Sometimes you get disappointed because you expect more and even in relation to this everything is balanced. I’m not negatively surprised with anyone.
“I didn’t have an incredible impact with some player, so everything is balanced and I think our summer will be quite small.”
United will be without centre-back Phil Jones for Saturday’s home game against Watford due to a foot injury.
But captain Wayne Rooney is back after missing last weekend’s 3-0 win at champions Leicester City due to illness and defender Marcos Rojo is also available despite picking up a knock in that game.