Belfast Telegraph

Wayne Rooney will get the welcome he deserves at Manchester United, says Mourinho


By Simon Peach

Wayne Rooney will be welcomed as a "real legend" when he returns to Old Trafford this weekend, according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.

England's record goalscorer left United to return to boyhood club Everton this summer after 13 successful years with the Red Devils.

Rooney, who since returning to Merseyside has retired from international football, is also the highest scorer in United's history and returns tomorrow to the club where he scored a record 253 goals in 559 appearances.

Mourinho expects the Old Trafford faithful to show the 31-year-old the appreciation he deserves, but the United boss hopes supporters put that welcome on hold during the match.

"I think that he will get the welcome that he deserves," the Portuguese said.

"I think sometimes in this country the word 'legend' comes too easily. That's not his case, he's a real legend of the club.

"The number of appearances, the number of goals, the number of trophies - I think clearly he's one of the most important players in the history of the club.

"And I think the stadium will show him the respect that he deserves. I hope before the match and after the match, not during the match."

Everton arrive at Old Trafford a day before Rooney faces a charge of drink-driving at Stockport Magistrates' Court, and they are looking to end a miserable run of form.

Ronald Koeman's men have conceded eight goals in defeats to Chelsea, Tottenham and Atalanta, with that three-match losing streak the tail-end of a five-game winless run.

While Everton have threats in their armoury, they know better than anyone what a handful Romelu Lukaku will pose.

Signed from the Toffees for an initial £75million over the summer, the Belgium striker has netted six goals in as many games in a seamless start to life at United.

"I think he came to us at the right moment - (at) a good age, (with a) good number of years of experience in different clubs in the Premier League," Mourinho added.

"He is a player who has adapted to the Premier League, with good friends already in this dressing room, with an easy integration in our group," he said.

A "worried" Ronald Koeman will, meanwhile, hold a meeting with Everton's squad where he will urge experienced players such as Rooney to drag them out of their rut.

The Toffees have lost three games in a row, the most recent of which was Thursday's 3-0 defeat to Atalanta in the Europa League when Koeman publicly put the onus on himself.

However, the Dutchman acknowledged his comments to the media may not be the ones he relays to his players behind closed doors.

Koeman has said he is looking for the senior members of his squad, like Rooney, captain Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams, to turn their fortunes around.

"After that result, of course you have thoughts about the team, individual performances and what we need to change," Koeman revealed.

"I don't like to go out and tell the media what I tell the players.

"I'm worried with what I saw on Thursday. I wasn't so worried after Chelsea, it started with the reaction in the second half against Tottenham - that 45 minutes and the first 45 minutes on Thursday."

Koeman is looking for Rooney to help get them back on track.

"Everybody knows about his qualities, what he did for Manchester United," he added.

"(But) he's an Everton player, he's one of the players who needs to react and to bring the level that we expect from players like Wayne."

Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding Goodison Park, Koeman is confident the tide will turn.

"I have the experience - we had a bad run last season, I had a bad run with Southampton, we came out of those," he stressed.

"I have to believe I have the confidence that we can come out of this."

  • Man United v Everton, Premier League: Old Trafford, Tomorrow, 4.00 pm

Fixtures to come

Today (3pm): Crystal Palace v Southampton (12.30pm), Huddersfield Town v Leicester City, Liverpool v Burnley, Newcastle United v Stoke City, Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City (5.30pm), Watford v Manchester City West Bromwich Albion v West Ham United; Tomorrow: Chelsea v Arsenal (1.30pm), Manchester United v Everton (4pm).

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