Mourinho: ‘Leg­end’ Rooney de­serves a hero’s wel­come

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But United boss tells fans in jest to cheer for for­mer cap­tain only be­fore and af­ter match

Asked whether Rooney had ben­e­fited from his re­turn to Ever­ton, Mourinho shut the con­ver­sa­tion down, re­ply­ing: “He is an Ever­ton player, I’m not go­ing to speak more.

“He’s a leg­end, he de­serves to be wel­comed that way but, dur­ing the match, he’s an Ever­ton player who will want to win the game.”

Ever­ton must re­group against the Pre­mier League lead­ers af­ter a 3-0 ham­mer­ing by Ata­lanta in the Europa League yes­ter­day morn­ing (Sin­ga­pore time).

Tof­fees man­ager Ron­ald Koe­man put the blame on him­self, call­ing it a big les­son on their re­turn to Euro­pean foot­ball af­ter three years.

“It is a big les­son tonight,” Koe­man told the club’s of­fi­cial web­site.

“But it is not the time or the place to crit­i­cise the play­ers.

“I have to crit­i­cise my­self be­cause the team were not pre­pared for this tonight.”

Koe­man said that he saw a big dif­fer­ence in the be­lief and con­fi­dence be­tween his side and Italy’s Ata­lanta, who re­turned to Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion af­ter 26 years.

“They had aggression and pas­sion. We made mis­takes, the pitch wasn’t the best ei­ther, but it was the same for them,” said the Dutch­man.

Koe­man’s men have con­ceded eight goals in de­feats by Chelsea, Tot­ten­ham and Ata­lanta, but Mourinho warned his side against com­pla­cency.

“I’m not go­ing to an­a­lyse in that per­spec­tive,” Mourinho said. “I am just go­ing to say they are a team with an in­cred­i­ble in­vest­ment.

“An in­vest­ment (on a par with) the teams that want to play for the ti­tle, so I am sure that their ob­jec­tive, if not the ti­tle, is the top four.

“So lots of good play­ers, a good team, a very dif­fi­cult match for us.”

Paul Pogba’s ham­string in­jury sus­tained against Basel in the Cham­pi­ons League on Tues­day will rule him out of to­mor­row’s match, but Mourinho has no doubt that United can cope with­out the French star.

Michael Car­rick, An­der Her­rera and Marouane Fel­laini are all stand­ing by to re­place Pogba.

“We have play­ers wait­ing for an op­por­tu­nity,” Mourinho said. “Be­cause we have started the sea­son re­ally well and with one match per week, (with) no need of rest­ing, (to make) changes, we were ba­si­cally go­ing with the same play­ers.

“But there are good play­ers more than ready to play, so hon­estly, we miss Pogba, we need Pogba, but we have good play­ers.

“Her­rera, Fel­laini, Car­rick, they are wait­ing — they are wait­ing for a chance to start matches and to play matches from the be­gin­ning.

“Squads are (there) to try to cope with these kind of sit­u­a­tions and we know that for a few matches — I don’t know how many, I re­ally can­not tell you how many I ex­pect — but we are go­ing to play with­out Pogba a few matches.”



Wayne Rooney will make an emo­tional re­turn to­mor­row to Old Traf­ford, where he spent 13 suc­cess­ful years with Manch­ester United.

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