Jose Mourinho will keep 'hurt' Wayne Rooney out of Manchester United's clash against Liverpool
Jose Mourinho is ready to keep Wayne Rooney out of the firing line at Liverpool on Monday night — insisting the Manchester United captain needs to recover from the ‘hurt’ he has suffered this season.
Mourinho has dropped struggling Rooney to the bench for the last three games and it would be a surprise if he exposed his captain to the hostile atmosphere of Anfield from the start.
Rooney was also relegated to a substitute’s role for England’s draw in Slovenia last week after being booed by his own fans in the victory over Malta.
Wayne Rooney has started Manchester United’s last three games from the bench
The 30-year-old found himself on the bench for England in a recent game against Slovenia
Mourinho had previously blamed widespread criticism of Rooney’s performance against Slovakia in September for his slump and believes the player’s confidence has been damaged enough.
‘I think what you could hurt, you did already,’ said Mourinho.
‘I don’t think you can do more. So I think in this moment it is time for him to recover from what was done to him and the best place for him to do that is feeling like he feels at home here.’
However, the United boss expects Rooney to prove his critics wrong, adding: ‘I’m not saying that he is low. You can hurt me but you can’t put me down — I think he’s the same.’
Jose Mourinho still believes Rooney is central to his long-term plans at Old Trafford
But throwing him into the cauldron at Anfield on Monday night may do him more damage
Mourinho insisted that the 30-year-old remains a central part of his plans, even though the England captain has failed to score since the opening day of the season at Bournemouth and lost his No 10 role to Juan Mata.
When it was put to Mourinho that he made the decision to drop Rooney for the games against Leicester, Zorya Luhansk and Stoke, he replied: ‘That’s my job. That’s a choice. He didn’t lose his place. Not at all. For me, he’s first choice.’
Mourinho now appears more open to playing Rooney in a midfield role after being told the player sees his future there.
‘If somebody confused him, it was not me,’ added Mourinho. ‘But he can play everywhere, no problem.’
Rooney scored the winning goal in the same clash against Liverpool in January last season
Even though Rooney scored a late winner when United won 1-0 at Anfield in January — his first goal there since 2005 — Mourinho indicated it would have little bearing on his team selection.
‘The records are not important,’ he said. ‘A match is an isolated event.’
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to lead the line again after scoring six goals in 11 games.
Mourinho said: ‘He was supposed not to play against Northampton and because the match before we lost at Watford, he told me, ‘I don’t want the three days off that you were supposed to give me, I want to go to that match. Maybe the team needs me’. He is fantastic.’
Zlatan Ibrahimovic surprised Mourinho after insisting on playing against Northampton