Zlatan Ibrahimovic will return to action next year as he enters the final stages of his rehabilitation, according to gym partner and Manchester United great Andy Cole.

The 36-year-old has been pictured back at the club’s training ground at Carrington this week after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Anderlecht earlier this year.

Having been handed a new contract in August, following some remarkable progress with his recovery, Ibrahimovic was included in United’s Champions League squad by Jose Mourinho.

That has fuelled talk of Ibrahimovic returning to action before the end of 2017, but Cole, who has been pictured in the gym with Ibrahimovic, feels it is a while off yet.

“Really good. Back next year, I think, so he’s done well really,” he told the Sun when asked how Ibrahimovic was.

“He’ll get games because he’s got so much quality. And he’s brilliant in the dressing room. I love Zlatan. He tells you how it is. He’s legendary.”

Ibrahimovic was operated on by renowned surgeon Dr Freddie Fu in Pittsburgh earlier this year.

And Fu, who has performed more than 20,000 knee operations, has warned that Ibrahimovic must take his time getting back on the field.

“I am sure Manchester United would not need the player urgently for any crucial game either in the league or European competitions,” he added.

“He is very strong but I want to see him return as slow as possible, only when he is fully fit for the game.

“There have been many cases of a player returning prematurely with bad consequences.

“When we examined his knee, other than the ligament injuries he sustained, the other parts of his knee are all in top-notch condition, just like those of a 15-year-old boy.”

Author: Yemi Olarinre