Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Manchester United v Zorya Luhansk: Jose Mourinho ponders keeping Wayne Rooney on bench to protect struggling star from his critics

Manchester United 1 - Zorya Luhansk 0

By Ian Whittell

Published 29/09/2016

Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game with team-mate Manchester United's Marcos Rojo (left) during the UEFA Europa League, Group A match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Nigel French/PA Wire
Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game with team-mate Manchester United's Marcos Rojo (left) during the UEFA Europa League, Group A match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Nigel French/PA Wire
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (left) and Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrate after the final whistle during the UEFA Europa League, Group A match at Old Trafford, Manchester Nigel French/PA Wire
Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League, Group A match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Nigel French/PA Wire
Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League, Group A match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Nigel French/PA Wire
Manchester United's Marcos Rojo (right) and Zorya Luhansk's goalkeeper Oleksiy Shevchenko (left) battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa League, Group A match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Nigel French/PA Wire
Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (right) and Zorya Luhansk's Mikhail Sivakov battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa League, Group A match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Nigel French/PA Wire
Manchester United's Juan Mata (right) and Zorya Luhansk's Dmytro Grechyshkin (left) battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa League, Group A match at Old Trafford, Manchester.Nigel French/PA Wire
Manchester United's English striker Wayne Rooney reacts following the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on September 29, 2016. Manchester United won the match 1-0. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Manchester United's Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (R) vies in the air with Zorya's Belarusian defender Mikhail Sivakov as he heads the ball towards goal during the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on September 29, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho (R) watches as Manchester United's Argentinian defender Marcos Rojo prpares to take a throw-in during the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on September 29, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Manchester United's Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (R) and Manchester United's English midfielder Jesse Lingard (C) vie with Zorya's Ukrainian defender Mykyta Kamenyuka during the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on September 29, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Zorya's Ukrainian midfielder Olexandr Karavaev (L) vies with Manchester United's Argentinian defender Marcos Rojo during the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on September 29, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho reacts as he shouts instructions to his players from the touchline during the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on September 29, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Zorya's Ukrainian midfielder Dmytro Grechyshkin (L) vies with Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba during the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on September 29, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho (R) gestures to Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba as he arrives on the pitch ahead of the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on September 29, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLISPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Europa League group A match between Manchester United FC and FC Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford on September 29, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Europa League group A match between Manchester United FC and FC Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford on September 29, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United is congratulated by teammate Marcos Rojo after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Europa League group A match between Manchester United FC and FC Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford on September 29, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United is congratulated by teammate Wayne Rooney after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Europa League group A match between Manchester United FC and FC Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford on September 29, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United scores the opening goal during the UEFA Europa League group A match between Manchester United FC and FC Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford on September 29, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Jose Mourinho is considering leaving Wayne Rooney out of the Manchester United line-up for their Europa League tie with Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk as he attempts to shield the England captain from growing speculation and debate over his long-term future at Old Trafford.

The United manager had intended to recall the forward, who was left out of his side's best display of the season when they humbled defending champions Leicester 4-1 on Saturday.

But exactly 12 years to the day since he made his debut for the club, scoring a hat-trick in a 6-2 Champions League victory over Fenerbahce, Rooney learned he may have to be satisfied with a place on the bench due to a minor back injury.

After Rooney's absence sparked widespread conjecture over whether the veteran has a future under Mourinho, the manager does not want to see a below-par performance from his club captain add further fuel to the fire.

"Wayne Rooney is selected (in the squad). I have not decided yet if I'll start with him," said Mourinho. "He didn't train yesterday, he did just a little bit of the session on Monday. He had a back problem. So today was the first time he had a training session with the other players and today it was a training session where the intensity and complexity is obviously reduced.

"So I was completely convinced of playing him tomorrow from the beginning with this situation in the last couple of days, but I am not sure if I'll do that because of the situation you created.

"He can't afford to have a performance that is not 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 or not.

"So I am going to discuss that with him and the medical staff and decide."

In contrast to Rooney, and the apparent dwindling of his star at the club, team-mate Juan Mata appears to have won over his critics and demonstrated his value to Mourinho and the changes he is instilling at Old Trafford.

The Spanish international left Mourinho's Chelsea and became United's then-record club signing, for £37.1m, in January 2014 but his reunion with the Portuguese was expected to end badly.

However, Mata's form has clearly won over Mourinho who now even claims that he never wanted to allow him to leave Stamford Bridge nearly three years ago.

"I didn't sell him because my job is not to buy and sell (at Chelsea)," said Mourinho. "My job is to coach and my job is to work on the pitch. My job is to advise on the transfer policy. I don't buy and I don't sell and I never did.

"Secondly it was that he was one who asked to leave and when a player asks to leave I think you always have to think twice.

"The third point is that my idea of football, with the squad I had at Chelsea, with the objectives we had at Chelsea, is one thing. The football I want to play at Man United, the profile of my squad and what I want to do in this club is a completely different situation.

"My project at Chelsea, he was a good player, my project at United, he is a very good player. The football we want to play here is different. We are in the beginning of that process. I think he is very adept to do that with his qualities. We need players with these qualities. He has found a very good natural habitat."

The United manager admits he will have to choose a strong line-up against Zorya, following their opening game defeat at Feyenoord.

"It is very important," he said. "I think we have to win. If we don't win we have four matches and we would have to win all of the last four matches."

Europa League: Old Trafford, Tonight, 8.05 pm

Belfast Telegraph

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph