Jose Mourinho won’t let his heart rule his head as the Manchester United manager ponders handing Wayne Rooney a start in the League Cup Final against Southampton on Sunday.
Rooney, 31, announced on Thursday that he will remain at Old Trafford for the rest of the season after turning down lucrative offers from Chinese Super League clubs. In response, Mourinho confirmed Rooney would be involved at Wembley for what could prove to be his final appearance at the famous stadium for United.
Rooney has only started three games since before Christmas, all of them in the FA or League Cup, and playe just 45 minutes in February, due to injury. Mourinho has not ruled out naming his club captain in his starting line up although he will not let sentiment cloud his decision. “Only the best 11 players,” said Mourinho of his selection philosophy. “We win all together. It doesn’t matter if you play or didn’t play, if you play a lot or don’t play much. I go for the best possible team.
“I have to make a decision. You know that we normally play two different systems. Sometimes we play with two midfield players and a ‘number 10’ if you want to call it that. He is an option for me. A final is a special match and he’s an option for me.”
The absence of in-form Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who picked up an injury in the midweek Europa League victory at Saint Etienne, has improved Rooney’s chances of adding to the League Cups he won with United in 2006 and 2010.
Mourinho, meanwhile, can join legendary managers Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough in winning the League Cup for a record fourth time if he is successful against Southampton. And although the Portuguese admits he has not found many players in his career who share his fanatical will to win, a number of United’s stars are beginning to impress him in that area.
“There are some. Not all of them,” said Mourinho. “I’ve found people in my career that, in spite of super talented players, (are not) naturally born winners or people ready to fight every day to win, and win and keep winning.
“The Zanettis, Lampards — these guys you don’t find every day. But we have people who are showing to me that they want to win this match, and this match is what matters now. I think when you have a taste of good things, you want to repeat. When you are used to winning and you don’t win, you miss it and you don’t accept it.
“We all know football is changing. We all know that it is much more difficult than it was before. But last season, a very difficult season for the club and for the players, along with the manager, they managed to win a trophy. It was a good taste for them. So we have to try.”