Wayne Rooney critics are crushing Manchester United and England captain, says Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho believes Wayne Rooney has been crushed by recent criticism and has told the Manchester United forward that the captaincy will not protect him from being dropped.
But the United manager urged Rooney to face his critics "in a strong way" and told the 30-year-old he retained his trust as he launched a robust defence of his public criticism of his players.
Rooney is at serious risk of being dropped for United's crucial Premier League game at home to champions Leicester City at Old Trafford this lunchtime after a dismal run of form, which Mourinho blames on the criticism the player received after England's narrow win against Slovakia this month.
Mourinho felt Rooney came in for unfair treatment after the last-gasp 1-0 World Cup qualifying victory in Trnava, which was Sam Allardyce's first game as England manager, and cited it as an example of the English culture of knocking down high-profile figures.
Rooney is known to be feeling the pressure, despite the forward claiming the "rubbish" his critics talk has no effect on him. But Mourinho's public admission that the United and England captain is struggling to cope with the scrutiny comes as a surprise and raises fresh questions over his prospects of retaining a first-team place.
"Honestly, I think there was a Wayne before the Slovakia-England (game) and a Wayne after the Slovakia-England (game)," said Mourinho, who is hoping to avert a third successive league defeat today. "And I am not blaming Sam (Allardyce), not at all. I am blaming the people that after the England-Slovakia (game) were, in my opinion, too strong with somebody that is a very important player in the history of English football, is the captain of England, has the record of goals (scored), is almost the record (holder) of matches (played).
"I think it was too much but I still think, a big boy like he is, he has to face it in a strong way. That's what he tries every time. When he is on the pitch he always gives 100pc, always."
The statistics support Mourinho's claims. In the four games he played before the England match, all of which United won, Rooney scored once, claimed three assists, mustered 11 shots, eight of which were on target, and created 11 chances in total.
In his three games since, only one of which United won, Rooney failed to score, managed no assists, created just six chances and was on target with only one of four shots. His performance in the 3-1 defeat by Watford last Sunday was rated by many fans as one of his worst in a United shirt.
Mourinho's predecessor, Louis van Gaal, insisted Rooney had "special privileges" as captain but the Portuguese said he would never guarantee the player a starting berth. Rooney was recently "rested" for the 1-0 Europa League defeat by Feyenoord in Rotterdam.
Asked if Rooney still had "special privileges", Mourinho said: "No, not at all. He is my captain, he is the club captain and that is difficult because sometimes you are the club captain because you have lots of years in the club, sometimes you are the manager's captain because the manager likes you very much.
"Wayne is trusted by the players, he is trusted by myself and he represents the club in a fantastic way.
"But football is a different story. Football, everyone is the same, and if he has to go on the bench, he goes on the bench, if he has to stay at home, he stays at home. But that doesn't mean that you don't trust him or you have a problem (with him).
"He is our captain, but of course, no privilege, he is like anyone else."
Mourinho has invited criticism for publicly rebuking individual players, including Luke Shaw, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jesse Lingard and Eric Bailly (pictured), over the past fortnight, which has drawn comparisons with his criticism of Chelsea players before his sacking last year.
But while Mourinho believes such criticism will make his players stronger, he admitted he was less happy when it came from people outside the club.
Asked if players can be too sensitive to his criticism, Mourinho - who will be without Anthony Martial against Leicester because of a contusion in the France forward's calf and ankle - said: "Yeah, it's their job, of course, it's their job. It's a learning process, you make a mistake, especially the kind of individual mistake (we have), you have to learn what that means for the team.
"The critique is part of the evolution, part of the process, the critique helps people to learn how to cope with critics. Everyone analyses things in a different way. Some (players) read every word, some don't read. Some are affected by it. Some are not.
"I think many times you media and (football) Einsteins, you forget there are family and kids and parents and wives and girlfriends. The way they react can also affect the way the professional reacts.
"It's part of the job and it's part of the culture of this country. I have been here many years and I know one of the reasons of the English disaster over the years in the Euros and in the World Cups. But I still think it's part of the job."
Mourinho believes he adopted a "very risky strategy" in the summer by talking up United's title credentials but that he could not manage such a big club and "give a different message". (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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