Mourinho ponders leaving out Rooney 'to protect him'
Man Utd v Zorya, Live, BT Sport 2, 8.05
Jose Mourinho says he has considered leaving out Wayne Rooney for his own 'protection' as he fears criticism of another under par-performance.
The Manchester United manager says Rooney was a certainty to start against Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford in the Europa League tonight, until he suffered a back injury early this week. Now the prospect of being less than 100pc for the Europa League tie has complicated the issue.
"I did not decide yet if I start with him," said Mourinho. "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."
Meanwhile, Juan Mata's position at Old Trafford is looking more secure. Mata feared for his United future when Mourinho was appointed having been sold while the Portuguese coach was at Chelsea - Mourinho insisted yesterday that the sale had not been his decision.
"There are big differences," said Mourinho. "At Man United I have more players to play transitional football. Football is the main objective, we are not so physically strong and compact and playing in a defensive block like we did when we won the title (with Chelsea) in 2014-15.
"The football we want to play here is different. I think Mata is very adept to do that with his qualities. We need players with these qualities. He has found a very good natural habitat."
Mourinho said United would also be without Luke Shaw, who is ill, but he intends to play a strong side. (© Daily Telegraph, London)