Zlatan Ibrahimovic has suggested he could drop into a number 10 role at Manchester United when he makes his long-awaited return from injury.
The 35-year-old has not featured for United since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in April’s Europa League quarter-final victory over Anderlecht.
United boss Jose Mourinho has revealed he expects the Swede to return to action before the turn of the year.
It’s been all change at Old Trafford since Ibrahimovic’s last appearance, with Wayne Rooney’s departure, coupled with Romelu Lukaku’s arrival, seeing him trade his No 9 shirt for the number 10.
But Ibrahimovic, who has previously worn the No 10 with Sweden and at Paris Saint-Germain, has embraced the weight of the shirt and vowed to do it justice at United.
“To me, number 10 is the star,” he said in a promotional video with Volvo. “The one who makes the difference, gets noticed, wins the matches and is the leader.
“And I see myself in that position but it is not something that is given to you, it is just something you are, that’s just the way it is.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho says Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in line to return to action before the turn of the year
“To be honest, it is like a trigger for me coming back from that injury. Because I wore the number 10 on the Swedish national team and PSG.
“I would have worn it at Inter but I soon moved to Barcelona. I wanted it in Milan but took another number out of respect. In Ajax I didn’t have it.
“I feel like a 10 and I stand for the number 10. It will go down in history that I always had number 10.”
After six months of rehabilitation, Ibrahimovic – United’s top scorer with 28 goals last season – returned to light training at United’s AON Training Complex at Carrington in October.
At the time, Mourinho said he “had a feeling” the Swede would be back playing by the end of 2017, news the Portuguese reaffirmed his forecast on Thursday.
“He is a lion, he is a fighter,” the United boss said. “I think that is a good description of him, he has the anger all the time and that’s the reason why he’s almost coming back.
An early glimpse of Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to training with Manchester United
“As we expect, he’s reduced the timing of his recovering and, as we were saying a few weeks ago, he will be back in 2017, which is a magnificent recovery.”