Mourinho: Rooney had an easy life at Manch­ester United

Man­ager says league far bet­ter de­fen­sively now Hopes ‘leg­end’ gets fine Old Traf­ford wel­come

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Premier League - By Luke Ed­wards

Jose Mourinho has claimed Wayne Rooney had things easy at Manch­ester United, say­ing the im­proved qual­ity of Pre­mier League de­fend­ing is the only rea­son his re­place­ment, Romelu Lukaku, will not threaten his goalscor­ing record at Old Traf­ford.

Rooney re­turns to his for­mer club with Ever­ton to­mor­row for the first time since leav­ing United in the sum­mer, hav­ing scored 253 goals in 13 years since mov­ing from Good­i­son Park in 2004.

And while Mourinho stressed that Rooney was one of the few play­ers in Eng­land who de­served to be de­scribed as a leg­end and in­sisted he would al­ways be re­garded as one of the “most im­por­tant play­ers in United’s his­tory”, he de­clared he was helped by the fact Pre­mier League de­fences were far worse when he first joined the club.

Al­though Rooney’s in­flu­ence on the pitch faded with time, he was a vi­tal mem­ber of the Fer­gu­son side who won the Cham­pi­ons League in 2008 as well as three Pre­mier League ti­tles. There is no ques­tion, though, that he ben­e­fited enor­mously from play­ing along­side creative play­ers like Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, Ryan Giggs, Paul Sc­holes and Michael Car­rick at the peak of his pow­ers.

Mourinho, though, also sug­gested there was another rea­son Rooney – whose re­place­ment, Lukaku, has scored six goals in as many games for the club – scored so fre­quently at the start of his United ca­reer. “Wayne ar­rived much ear­lier than that [Rooney was 18 when he signed for United],” ex­plained Mourinho when asked whether Lukaku could break Rooney’s record de­spite be­ing six years older than the English­man when he signed from Ever­ton for £75mil­lion this sum­mer.

“I think Wayne spent prob­a­bly 10 years of his ca­reer in a dif­fer­ent Pre­mier League than you have now.

“A Pre­mier League where it was eas­ier to score goals, not just be­cause of the dif­fer­ence be­tween the top teams and oth­ers, but also be­cause of the pro­file and the tac­ti­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the com­pe­ti­tion.

“I think this Pre­mier League is much more de­fen­sive minded, and much more dif­fi­cult.”

Mourinho also added that, if sup­port­ers want to give Rooney a warm wel­come on his first re­turn to the club af­ter 13 largely suc­cess­ful years in Manch­ester, to make sure it does not hap­pen dur­ing the game.

“I think he’ll get the wel­come that he de­serves,” said Mourinho, whose side go into this weekend’s fix­tures sit­ting top of the Pre­mier League. “I think some­times, in this coun­try, the word leg­end comes too eas­ily. It is used too eas­ily, but he de­serves that ti­tle.

“He’s a real leg­end of the club. The num­ber of ap­pear­ances, goals, tro­phies, clearly he’s one of the most im­por­tant play­ers in the his­tory of Manch­ester United. I think the sta­dium will show him the re­spect he de­serves. I hope be­fore the match and af­ter – but not dur­ing it.”

Asked whether Rooney had ben­e­fited from his move to Ever­ton, Mourinho shut the con­ver­sa­tion down, re­ply­ing: “I’m go­ing to have in­ter­rupt that ques­tion. 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.”

Mourinho also tried to reign in over ex­citable talk given these are still early days in Lukaku’s United ca­reer, but he is de­lighted with the speed the Bel­gium in­ter­na­tional has set­tled into the team.

“I think he has come here at the right mo­ment,” Mourinho added. “He is a good age. He has a good num­ber of years of ex­pe­ri­ence with dif­fer­ent clubs in the Pre­mier League. He is clearly a player who has adapted to the Pre­mier League.

“He has good friends al­ready in the dress­ing room, and has had an easy in­te­gra­tion into our group. The way the team is try­ing to play has good re­la­tion to his qual­i­ties as a player. So, I think he has come at the right mo­ment of his ca­reer.”

Many feel the sign­ing of Lukaku has turned United into ti­tle favourites this sea­son, but Mourinho was once again cau­tious in his re­sponse.

He added: “It’s not just about the striker. A striker is very im­por­tant, but last sea­son we had a very good striker [Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic] for two thirds of the sea­son and that was not enough to win the ti­tle.

“So, it’s not just the striker. I think that Romelu has a bet­ter team than Zla­tan had. Romelu’s team plays dif­fer­ent foot­ball and the con­fi­dence lev­els are dif­fer­ent and it is a team in the sec­ond year of its evo­lu­tion in some as­pects.

“But I think he also de­serves credit for that be­cause of the way he plays, the way he is com­mit­ted, what he does with and with­out the ball, not just the last touch and the goal but his over­all con­tri­bu­tion. We couldn’t be hap­pier.”

All smiles: Romelu Lukaku has de­lighted Jose Mourinho so far

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.