Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jose Mourinho says Wayne Rooney remains a key figure at Manchester United despite dropping his captain for the 4-1 thrashing of Leicester.
Mourinho left United and England captain Rooney on the substitutes’ bench at Old Trafford on Saturday and was rewarded with a ruthless display against the Premier League champions.
But the United manager insisted Rooney remains his leader and chose to focus on the performances of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard instead of the omission of the striker following a poor spell of form.
“My captain is my captain,” said Mourinho. “If he is on the pitch or if he is at home he is my captain.
“That’s not a problem but we thought against a team like Leicester with the way they defend and the profile of their defenders that the best solution for us was to play with the two fast kids and with (Juan) Mata in a position where he can interact with the young kids.
“So it ended well for us. If I don’t play Rashford you ask me why. If I don’t play Lingard you ask me why and you prefer always to ask why somebody is not playing.
“Sometimes when I read I feel I know nothing about football but there is one thing I know: the rules of the game.
“I can only start 11 and until somebody tells me there is a change in that I can only start with 11.”
United relieved some pressure with a classy display after they recorded three successive defeats before beating third-tier minnows Northampton in the League Cup in midweek.
But Mourinho claimed his side are still developing from last season’s struggles under his predecessor Louis van Gaal, although the current manager insisted he had no regrets about setting their targets high.
– Contradiction –
“I was the one with the aggressive approach in terms of my words,” he said.
“I told you that I wanted to play for the title because this is the approach that Manchester United demands.
“It was not because I thought it was going to be an easy task.
“I could have been much more defensive in my words but I decided to go in another way and I don’t regret that because this is the way we have to think. But of course there is a process.
“For them what really is more difficult is the fact that myself and Mr van Gaal think about football in a different way so it is normal that in their football brains there are still moments of contradiction between what they were used to do and what I want them to do.
“It is also a factor that in the recent past they were not successful and they know the responsibility to play for this club and the expectations when things are not going well.”
Leicester suffered a third defeat of the season — the same number they recorded throughout last season when claiming the Premier League title.
They were 4-0 down at half-time and so well beaten that manager Claudio Ranieri withdrew key duo Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez with Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Porto in mind.
“It’s very strange because the first 20 minutes we started well, moved the ball quickly and put them under pressure,” Ranieri said.
“Suddenly then we conceded a goal with a corner and that’s strange because we’re strong on the corner.
“Today we conceded three goals from corners. It’s strange too because we switched off. We lost our confidence and strength.
“We started to try to do something but alone, not as a team. Now I want to speak with the players to understand what happened.
“We changed system and the shape. I wanted to preserve Vardy and Mahrez for the next match.”
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