Sunday 18 February 2018

England to blame for imploding of Wayne's World, says tetchy Jose

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo credit: Dave Howarth/PA Wire.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo credit: Dave Howarth/PA Wire.

Jason Burt

Jose Mourinho has said Wayne Rooney could not be more "hurt" than he is right now, after being dropped by England and with the scrutiny he has faced because of his faltering form.

However, the Manchester United manager (left) refused to admit that Rooney was no longer "first choice" at his club despite the player not starting the last three matches.

Not so long ago it would have been unthinkable for Rooney not to be included in a match against Liverpool - he scored the only goal in the corresponding match last season - but the United captain seems likley to start tonight's match on the bench.

Mourinho pinned the 30-year-old's slump in form firmly on what has happened with the England team.

After the last international break, Mourinho declared that "there was a Wayne before the Slovakia-England (game) and a Wayne after the Slovakia-England" with a knock-on effect at United as a result of the criticism he came under.

Asked whether he feared a similar reaction, given Rooney was dropped against Slovenia last Tuesday, Mourinho responded: "I think what you could hurt, you did already.

"I don't think you can do more than what you did. I think, in this moment, it is time for him to recover from what was done to him and the best place for him to do that is feeling like he feels at home here."

Rooney was dropped for the recent United games against Leicester, Stoke and Zorya Luhansk, but Mourinho denied that this was the case.

"Man United, he didn't lose his place. Not at all," he claimed, before adding of leaving out Rooney: "That's my job. That's a choice. I have 24 players. For me, he's first choice."

It was a confusing argument from Mourinho, but one designed to lay the blame for Rooney's troubles firmly on England and, also, the media reaction as to where he fits into the team for club and country.

It was also meant to show he was fighting for Rooney.

Mourinho was dismissive of claims - not least from the player himself - that his future may be as a midfielder.

At his unveiling press conference, Mourinho said Rooney was "a No 9 or a No 10 or a 91/2, but, with me, he will never be a No 6 or even a No 8".

And added ahead of the Liverpool match: "If somebody confused him, it was not me."

So is his future in midfield, as Rooney said? Again there was a response from Mourinho, blaming the debate on what happened with England as he deliberately echoed the words of the now former manager Sam Allardyce which caused Rooney such angst.

"He can play everywhere. That's no problem," Mourinho said.

The manager was then asked to clarify how "low" Rooney actually felt. "No, I didn't say that. I'm not saying that he is low," he responded.

But he is hurt? "OK, you can hurt me but you can't put me down," Mourinho countered.

Mourinho's tetchiness was revealing, even when he was invited to agree that Rooney is a "big-game player" and gained United that win at Anfield last season.

"The records are not important for me. A match is an isolated event," Mourinho said.

There was a withering response as he was asked about the demonstrative behaviour of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the touchline.

"I'm on the touchline to try to coach. I'm not on the touchline ..." And with that he waved his arms in the air as he walked out. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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