Wayne Rooney has insisted that he has a lot of football left in him and though 31 next week believes he is capable of delivering for Manchester United in every game, despite being reduced to a regular substitute’s role by manager Jose Mourinho.
Rooney’s willingness to stop to discuss his marginalisation at Old Trafford – a state of affairs that would leave the majority of Premier League footballers unwilling to speak in a player/media mixed zone – illustrates the maturity which England and United managers repeatedly speak of. He was phlegmatic about being substitute in five of his last six games for United and England.
“I like to think I can play every game, but obviously it's the manger’s decision and I respect that,” Rooney said. “I will be ready when I’m needed. I’m 31 next week, I’ve got a lot of football left.”
He did not deny that he was frustrated by watching from the sidelines. “Yeah of course you want to play – I have to try and do my job for the team and wait for my chance,” he said. Rooney may get his first start for United since last month’s EFL Cup win at Northampton when Europa League opponents Fenerbahce arrive at Old Trafford on Thursday night. “I don't know, I’m sure the manager will have looked at tonight, and I’m sure he’ll have an idea,” he said to that.
Despite the defensive nature of the performance in the goalless draw at Anfield, Rooney said United felt they could win the Premier League under Mourinho. “Yeah, I do,” he said. “I think we’ll be challenging this season. We’ve still got that belief and it is even stronger after working with this manager, and the players over the last few months, I think we’ve got a fantastic squad that is ready and capable of challenging.”
His 15-minute role at Anfield was not without its problems. Replacing Marcus Rashford on the United flank, Rooney found himself operating as a utility right-back and on two occasions Liverpool’s James Milner got in behind him. Debate now rages about exactly how defensive United were at Liverpool. Opta statistics, quoted by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, suggested a mere 35 per cent ball possession – the lowest by a United team in the Premier League era – but Mourinho insisted it was 42 per cent.
Rooney said that Mourinho has brought a “different” way of playing. “Yeah, it’s what the manager’s wanting from us, and that is going to take time as well,” he said. “I’m sure over the next few weeks or couple of months we will have our way of playing, and it will be his way of playing.”
He admitted that it was taking time to adjust from the method that Louis van Gaal had insisted upon. “Probably the game being on Monday night has helped us. We've come back from the international break, and had a bit longer to work on the team. That has helped us in the end. It is a different way of playing, but if you’re an individual you should learn what the manager wants. As a team it’s going to take a little bit longer. We knew it was going to take a bit of time.”