Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has been quick to dismiss any talk that captain Wayne Rooney is being phased out of the team, stating that the Englishman remains an important player for the club. The United boss dismissed theories that he wasn’t being included in the squad by reminding everyone that Rooney is still injured and therefore cannot play in matches at the moment. Rooney was only recently given the green light for tomorrow’s match between Manchester United and Burnley at Old Trafford, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rooney omitted from the team once again.
Despite Rooney’s failure to start for United in the Premier League since the Red Devils’ defeat at the hands of Watford, Mourinho remains sure that his captain is a very important player, on and off the pitch, for Manchester United. Mourinho admitted that Rooney is not happy with his place on the bench for United while taking shots at the media for writing high-profile lies in the major papers. Mourinho also pointed out that the media has been highly critical of him, despite the fact United is in good form (barring the catastrophic defeat at Stamford Bridge). Mourinho sarcastically encouraged the media to write whatever they want, despite the fact it isn’t true.
“You can write and say what you want. But it is not true. He is a very good player, a very important player for us and he is not going anywhere. We like him, he likes us and, while he is not happy to be on the bench, he is more unhappy to be injured.
“There are no problems, but you need to sell papers and you write lies. You even write lies about myself when I say it is ‘a disaster’ because every time I leave my hotel I have somebody chasing [me], you write that I say my life is disaster. This is not true. Rooney is back tomorrow.”
Also clarifying Chris Smalling’s fitness in the same segment of his press conference, Mourinho will have provided some relief and some agony for the divided Manchester United fans when it comes to Rooney’s position at the club. While he says these things, and I do not think he is lying, I also think there is an element of a half-story being told by Mourinho out of respect for Rooney. While I do think the manager thinks Rooney can be useful to the squad as a player, I doubt he would be too fussed if Rooney decided to pack his bags, and he would happily place Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial in the void.
Mourinho used the beginning of the season, in my opinion, as a way to show that Rooney will not be up to the standard to play for Manchester United if the Red Devils are to win anything anytime soon. Then, he placed him on the bench but continued to play him in matches in which he could not possibly be a liability. Now, with Rooney’s injury, stories are coming out in the papers that he could be leaving, and Mourinho said that he would never sell Rooney. This is one of respect, but it also allowed the media to falsely infer that Rooney was a key player for United despite his recent benching. His comments now state that Rooney is an “important player”, which still does not say he is key to the squad plans going forward. While Mourinho’s English isn’t flawless, he definitely knows how to handle the media and get his way in terms of reducing speculation around the club. For me, this is a sign that, whatever is happening with the Rooney situation, Mourinho is a man United fans and officials can depend on to make the right decisions at the right times.