Ibrahimovic is out of contract at the end of United’s current campaign and could potentially leave before its conclusion. Should he take up an offer in Major League Soccer or the Chinese Super League.
The American and Chinese seasons run from March through the calendar year, with clubs in both leagues interested in recruiting Ibrahimovic for his sporting and commercial appeal.
While United would prefer to retain last season’s leading scorer within their first-team squad until his contract expires. In June, they are conscious that the Swede’s value in China or the United States would be increased by arriving for the start of their leagues.
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Whatever decision Ibrahimovic makes on a mid-season move, United believe the striker will not extend his Old Trafford stay into a third campaign.
With Romelu Lukaku established as the club’s first-choice centre forward following an initial £75million summer switch from Everton, United could only offer Ibrahimovic a role as a squad player, something the famously self-confident Swede is not expected to countenance.
The 36-year-old made four substitute appearances and two first-team starts between November 18 and December 26
As a striker remain particularly expensive and challenging to recruit, United are considering several alternative strategies for Ibrahimovic’s succession.
The first would be to sign a starting centre forward in his mid-twenties. Italy international Andrea Belotti is understood to remain at the top of a list drawn up by United’s scouting department despite the 24-year-old’s goal return at Torino dropping off this season