Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho believes Marcus Rashford can emulate Rooney's goals record
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho reflected after Wayne Rooney had equalled Sir Bobby Charlton's 249-goal club record that Marcus Rashford is capable of matching it, even though the modern nature of the game appears to make that a remote possibility.
"I see (matching 249 being) really difficult. I don't know, who knows?" Mourinho said before considering the 19-year-old, who is a year older than the manager realised and is on 14 goals.
"Marcus, he is 18. If he plays for Man United until the end of his career, maybe Marcus can do it but Rooney scored a lot of goals."
The tribute came despite Rashford intermittently incurring the manager's wrath during Saturday's easy 4-0 win over Reading, because of profligacy in front of goal and in possession. Jaap Stam's side's abysmal defending gifted the teenager two late goals, after Anthony Martial and Rooney had set United on their way.
Mourinho refused to bite on the suggestion that Rooney might play out the remaining two years of his United contract and claimed that he did not know how long the 31-year-old's £250,000-a-week deal had to run.
"I don't even know his current deal," Mourinho said, laughing.
"I am not worried with my players' contracts. I leave this to (executive vice chairman) Mr (Ed) Woodward to deal with."
When it was put to the manager that Rooney had two years of his deal to run, Mourinho said: "I have three. No! I have two, I have two! Similar as me!"
Rooney is to be respected for his approach to the FA Cup third round occasion as much as the tally of 249, which United's official statistician Cliff Butler insists equals the record, since Charlton's two goals against Verona in the Anglo-Italian Cup don't count - they were not scored in first class competition.
Lesser individuals than Rooney would have withdrawn their goodwill having been removed to the wrong side of Mourinho's starting XI of choice, as he has.
Rooney had not been a better player to work with than Mourinho had imagined, the Portuguese said.
"No. No, I was expecting this. In spite of not working with him, I had always a good relationship with him," said Mourinho.
"I always had a good feeling with him - a good professional, a team player. I saw him always sacrificing for the team.
"He played against me when I was in Real Madrid in Madrid. He played almost left-back. I always saw him sacrifice for the team and with me he is the same. He is on the bench, he comes in. He plays, he doesn't play, but always positive with the group, a good captain, so I am really happy."
Phil Jones - a first-half substitute for Marcos Rojo, who will undergo tests on a muscular injury this afternoon - said Rooney was "taken for granted" too much.
"We were all rooting for him to break that record and he has equalled it," said Jones, ahead of a week in which United entertain Hull City in the League Cup semi-final tomorrow night and Liverpool on Sunday.
"He has been a fantastic servant not just for Manchester United and England but football in general.
"He is a player who people idolise and look up to, all credit to him. I remember (his hat-trick against Fenerbahce in 2004) and I remember being sat at home watching on TV when he scored (his first Premier League goal) for Everton against Arsenal, beating David Seaman from 30 yards, after the ball hit the bar and went in.
"He's a special player. At the moment he gets his share of criticism but he's a phenomenal player and has been for many years. And we should embrace him while he's here because he won't be around for ever."