Saturday 18 November 2017

Out-of-favour Rooney insists he wants to stay at United

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: PA Wire
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: PA Wire

Simon Peach

Wayne Rooney wants to stay at Manchester United, even if the lack of game-time is grating on the club's all-time top scorer.

For so long a key player for club and country, this season the 31-year-old has found himself in the unusual position of scrapping for a starting role.

Rooney has made just 22 United starts across all competitions and continuing questions over his viability at the top level have fuelled talk that his future lies away from Old Trafford.

The skipper committed his immediate future to United in February amid interest from China, saying he wanted to remain at the club during this "exciting time" - a period that could soon bring Europa League glory.

Desire

Rooney spoke of his desire to win the competition on the eve of the semi-final second leg against Celta Vigo, although his future rather than the tie formed the main line of questioning in the press conference.

"Of course you want to play, you want to play every game," he said. "I've had to keep working and try to take my chances when I get the opportunity. That's what I've done and when called upon I'll try my best to help the team."

Asked if he thinks this could be his final chance to reach a big final with United, Rooney said: "My focus is on trying to help us win this final and that's my sole focus.

"I think it's a massive opportunity for us as a group of players to win a European title."

Rooney continues to be linked with a big-money move to China, where his agent Paul Stretford spent time earlier in the year speaking to interested clubs.

Everton and the United States are other potential destinations, but Rooney is keen to stay at Old Trafford, even if he had to be pushed on a subject the forward seemed keen to skirt around.

"Would I like to stay? I've been at this club 13 years," he said. "Of course I want to play football. Of course (I want to do it here)."

This is, though, a period of transition in Rooney's career - something the skipper is all too aware of. No longer the lung-busting teenager that burst on to the scene, the 31-year-old is having to adapt his game to the changes that come with age.

"This season, of course, I haven't played as much as I'd like to play," he said. "I've tried to help the team off the pitch, on the pitch.

"I haven't thrown my toys out of the pram, I haven't made a big fuss of it. But of course I want to play football and the more I can play obviously the better for me."

Whether Rooney is in the starting line-up tonight - or the squad next season - remains to be seen. He accepts that United's top-four tilt is all but over, with Europa League glory offering the most likely route back to where "this club belongs", the Champions League. United have a 1-0 first-leg advantage from the first leg.

Dangerous

"This is a European semi-final, it's the biggest chance to win a European competition in the last two or three years. The tie's not over," warned Rooney. "It's a dangerous position we're in but we've got a good chance of going to the final if we play to our best."

Adding to League Cup glory would be a good end to a difficult first campaign for Mourinho (pictured), who Rooney has once again backed to flourish in the Old Trafford hotseat.

"I said in October, November, that this club will be successful under Jose Mourinho having seen the way he works," he added.

"We're not far off challenging for the Premier League and I hope next season in the Champions League. I feel the club will be successful under Jose."

Manchester United v Celta Vigo,

Live, BT Sport 2, 8.05

Irish Independent

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