Saturday 16 December 2017

'My captain is happy'- Jose Mourinho says there are no issues with Wayne Rooney after Leicester omission

Wayne Rooney started the Leicester game on the bench
Wayne Rooney started the Leicester game on the bench

Tom Rooney

If anything, yesterday’s victory over Leicester at Old Trafford will have provided the detractors of Wayne Rooney what they believe to be irrefutable evidence that Manchester United are a more balanced team without him.

Rooney has started all of Manchester United’s competitive games under Jose Mourinho and, as the last fortnight yielded three consecutive losses, some wondered if the Portuguese had the gumption to omit the club captain.

Indeed, unlike Louis van Gaal, Roy Hodgson and Sam Allardyce, Mourinho finally took the plunge and condemned Wayne Rooney to the unfamiliar position of substitute.

The result of which, a thorough 4-1 shellacking of an all too accommodating Leicester City, was a first league win for United since beating Hull City on August 27th.

Moreover, it was United’s highest goal tally in a competitive match since the former Chelsea boss took the reins and, of possibly equal importance, provided the first real inkling as to why the club paid a world record fee for Paul Pogba.

The French midfielder, who scored a fine header, looked unshackled in the presence of the dervish-like Ander Herrera and, in the No.10 role, an ultra impressive Juan Mata, who also registered.

The ramifications will also be felt by Marouane Fellaini, a favourite of Mourinho this term, but Rooney must now be considering exactly what the future holds.

Rooney sat stone-faced in the stands and watched as a club he has spearheaded for a decade not only survived, but thrived in his absence.

That he was only introduced -with seven minutes remaining- in light of a knock taken by Marcus Rashford could compound his woe.

According to Mourinho, his decision led to no rancour with the 30-year-old who, he said, was delighted to see United back on track.

“My captain is my captain whether he is on the pitch or at home. We won the game so he is happy.” (First published in the Observer)

Asked what compelled him to drop the second highest goal scorer in club history, the manager was curt but comprehensive in his response.

“Because I know the rules of the game. You can only pick 11 men. If I leave out Rashford you ask me why.

“If I leave out Rooney you ask me why, but I cannot pick them all. I have a squad of players and I thought the best option against a quick-breaking side like Leicester was to play with two fast players out wide with Juan Mata in the middle.”

Rooney’s decimated speed has certainly become more acute since the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimović, who has never possessed any particular thrust, unlike Rashford, another scorer against the champions.

Simply put, when they are both deployed, particularly in the face of defensively obdurate opposition, United are often a lumbering package going forward.

Of Pogba, and what appears to be a promising partnership with Herrera, Mourinho was content by what he saw but nothing more.

“The pair complement each other in midfield. Pogba still needs to be consistent, but you can say that about the team as a whole. I know Herrera from La Liga. He is a good player, I like him a lot.”

The result in and of itself was pleasing and vital but the fact Leicester allowed United score three times from corners, including Chris Smalling’s opener, must be taken into consideration.

“It is not normal to score three times from a corner, but the intensity of our pressure led to the corners and therefore the goals. I was pleased with the way we reacted when we lost the ball, we made a good start and kept going.”

Mourinho also echoed what he said during the week and, beforehand, at his unveiling, that the target this year is to secure the first league title of the post Ferguson era.

“I said that because I thought it is what United would demand, this is a club that should be going for the title. I did not say it because I thought it was going to be easy.”

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