First-year Manchester United Manager Jose Mourinho has to figure out just what he’s going to do with Wayne Rooney, who has played at Old Trafford since the age of 18 but now, at 30, might be without a spot in the team’s starting lineup.
Rooney played the full 90 minutes on Wednesday against third-division Northampton Town in the League Cup, a second-rate competition in which most of the Premier League’s biggest stars don’t play. The question now is whether Mourinho will keep him out there for United’s Premier League match Saturday morning against defending champion Leicester. There isn’t much room for him: Paul Pogba, who signed a world-record transfer fee to return to United in the offseason, would be more comfortable without Rooney in front of him in the central midfield, while striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, another big offseason signing, also likes to infringe on Rooney’s location on the field.
Rooney has scored just once in five EPL appearances this season. According to the Associated Press, Mourinho was asked twice about what he wanted from Rooney before the Northampton game:
“Goals,” he said.
Former Arsenal midfielder and current English TV pundit Ray Parlour called the issue a “big problem” for Mourinho.
Despite the issues facing the two, Mourinho has been a longtime fan of Rooney’s, so much that he tried to sign him away to Chelsea three years ago when he was managing at Stamford Bridge. In his forthcoming book “Jose Mourinho: Up Close and Personal,” soccer journalist and Chelsea fan Robert Beasley described a fairly humorous conversation Mourinho had with Beasley’s son during Chelsea’s preseason trip to Washington in the summer of 2013.
I remember sitting in the lounge of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington DC having dinner with my son Joshua when Jose sauntered over. The next thing my 12-year-old lad knew, the Chelsea boss was pushing him along to squeeze into the chair with him.
Jose’s opening line was a corker: ‘What do you think of us trying to sign the Fat Boy?’
Josh was caught out for a second and didn’t cotton on to the ‘Fat Boy’ joke at first. I started laughing and told him: ‘He means Rooney — the Fat Boy is Rooney.’
For all his joking, Jose was a huge fan of the United striker and desperately wanted to sign him up.