Marouane Fellaini has become something of a cult favourite with Manchester United fans. Photo: Reuters

MANCHESTER – Jose Mourinho admitted on Friday he is growing ever more anxious about the prospect of losing Belgian international Marouane Fellaini as the midfielder’s contract talks with Manchester United drag on.

The Old Trafford manager, speaking ahead of his side’s Premier League match against Brighton on Saturday, has revealed that he is not involved in the discussions designed to tie the 30-year-old Belgian international to a new, extended deal.

Fellaini is understood to want a longer-term contract than the one currently being offered by the United board and rejected one offer, believed to be for two years, in September.

Since then, talks appear to have stalled and, in January, Fellaini will be free to talk to foreign clubs as he enters the final six months of his current deal.

“Yes,” said Mourinho when asked if he is worried at the prospect of losing Fellaini. “(I have done) nothing, it is a discussion between the player and the board. I’m not involved in contracts... and I respect both.

“I respect the player because he has the right to decide his future, and I respect the board because the decisions and the discussions are under control, so I just wait, wishing they will have an understanding, but it’s out of my control.”

Turkish clubs Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray have already declared an interest and are understood to be prepared to offer terms over four years while, previously, Italian clubs Roma and Napoli have also been linked with him.

Fellaini has prospered as much as any player under the 18 months of Mourinho’s management, having been transformed from a player who was unpopular with Old Trafford supporters into something of a cult favourite with fans.

Mourinho has admitted that another fans’ favourite, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is still some way from being able to start a game after his dramatic return from career-threatening knee surgery.

The 36-year-old Swedish star came on as a late sub against Newcastle and Basel this week, but is still working his way back to full match fitness.

Mourinho said: “No, he is not ready. Step by step, minute after minute, match after match.

“It is easy to play him if the team is losing for the last 15 or 20 minutes, or if the team is winning for the last 15 or 20 minutes.

“His qualities are adapted. You don’t play him only if the team is losing or winning. He is a player who’s easy to bring into the game, so normally he is going to have this period of 15, 20. And one day, he will feel he is physically ready.

“His impact on the pitch is always positive, he’s a good influence, doesn’t change if he’s playing or not playing. He’s one more option for us, and it’s impossible for (Romelu) Lukaku to play every match, every minute, like he’s doing.”

At the start of an eight-day period in which United play Brighton, Watford and Arsenal in the Premier League, Mourinho has called on his supporters to show patience as they look to eat into Manchester City’s commanding lead at the top of the table.

“We haven’t reached 50 percent of the season, so let’s be calm. We have four competitions to play, and let’s go step by step, match after match,” he said.