One Manchester United star seems to think Wayne Rooney doesn't need Jose Mourinho's protection
Jose Mourinho might still be deliberating on whether or not it would be prudent to wrap Wayne Rooney in cotton wool for tomorrow’s Europa League clash with Zorya Luhansk, but one Manchester United player believes the skipper does not require such coddling.
There is most likely a plethora of defenders across the continent and beyond that would happily attest to the fact that Wayne Rooney doesn’t need protection from anyone, and never has for that matter.
However, that was the reason Jose Mourinho offered the media today when explaining that, quite possibly, he would not be starting his captain for the second game in a row.
Indeed, in Rooney’s absence last weekend, United snapped a three game losing streak by trouncing a defensively abject Leicester City by 4-1.
The klaxon call to drop England’s record goal-scorer had sounded long and incessantly, though many doubted if Mourinho, in the same manner as Louis van Gaal, Roy Hodgson and a certain Sam Allardyce, would actually do it.
But that he did, and the results of his decision certainly appeared all too conclusive.
While it would be hyperbolic to say that last Saturday’s victory over the champions marked the beginning of the end of Rooney’s era as United’s figurehead, it cannot be argued that they were a far more dynamic, better balanced outfit while he sat stone-faced on the bench.
When addressing Rooney’s situation, Mourinho said that the ever-increasing media scrutiny on the striker’s ability to perform at the highest levels had compelled him to rethink his involvement at Old Trafford tomorrow night.
“I am not sure if I do that because of the situation you created with him. He can’t afford to have a performance that is not really good.
“Because I am here to protect him and not to put him in difficult situations I have to analyse whether the best thing for him is to start the game if he is not totally ready for it.”
The Portuguese went on to explain that the 30-year-old had fully recovered from a mild back issue, so it’s difficult not to assume that the former has concocted a convenient narrative to justify keeping the latter out of the starting XI.
Until being selected for the win over Leicester, Jesse Lingard had not made an appearance for the club since being whipped off at half time in the Manchester derby defeat.
Lingard featured regularly under Louis van Gaal last term but it would seem that Mourinho is not yet fully convinced of his worth.
The 23-year-old is adamant that Rooney still has a prominent part to play as Mourinho continues in his attempt to rebuild the club, and that it is simply a case of rediscovering his mojo after a prolonged spell of what has been, to put it mildly, indifferent form.
"Wayne's a top-class player and has won plenty for Man United. The manager changed the dynamic against Leicester and we did well but it's important we stay together”
Moreover, the man who netted the match-winner in last May’s FA Cup final defeat of Crystal Palace, said that Rooney’s ability to inspire the troops is something that cannot be done without.
"He's an advisor, a leader, he always gave me advice as I was breaking through and he's done the same with Marcus (Rashford) and Tim Fosu-Mensah.
"I think he's never going to change, (he will be) the same leader, (with) that aggression he's got. But like anyone he's got to bounce back and I think he'll do that."