Football/Soccer

Jose Mourinho dodges Wayne Rooney Europa League question

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and manager Jose Mourinho  
Phil Medlicott

EUROPA LEAGUE Group A: Manchester United v Fenerbahce

JOSE Mourinho refused to confirm whether or not United captain Wayne Rooney, will start tonight's Europa League Group A clash with Fenerbahce at Old Trafford.

"I don't want to give you the team, honestly," Mourinho said.

"Wayne is working well - he's one of the big responsible people for the atmosphere that the players can breathe because he's positive and a good example.

"We count on him to start or be on the bench, but he will be there tomorrow."

After a three-game losing streak in all competitions, United have gone unbeaten in their last five, their most recent result Monday's 0-0 Premier League draw at Liverpool.

There have been questions of late over the performances of midfielder Paul Pogba and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the two most high-profile signings the club made over the summer, and Mourinho has stressed they are not "untouchable" players.

In 2006 that was how he described certain members of his side at Chelsea.

Asked on Wednesday if he had the same approach at United, with Pogba and Ibrahimovic mentioned specifically, Mourinho said: "No. That was a different Premier League and situation - it was the best team by far. It was a different story.

"Untouchable in our team has to be the spirit, the commitment, the pride, the commitment to the club, the respect to the fans - that has to be untouchable, not players."

Mourinho would not say whether Henrikh Mkhitaryan will feature on Thursday, but did comment of the playmaker, who has been sidelined for seven games with a thigh issue.

He said: "Now he is fit and now it is time for him to go back to the levels we know he can achieve."

As well as Mkhitaryan, forward Anthony Martial and midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin - both absent on Monday due to knocks - look to be in contention for a return to United's matchday squad on Thursday as they took part in training on Wednesday morning.

The only player Mourinho would confirm as a starter for the game was Luke Shaw, who also attended the press conference.

Last month Shaw was singled out by Mourinho for criticism following United's 3-1 loss at Watford, with the manager unhappy about the 21-year-old left-back's positioning during the build-up to one of the goals from the home side.

Asked about that on Wednesday, Shaw said: "I am a grown man now and I can take what the manager said.

"I am also still young, so I need to take it on board and improve. You have to listen to what your coaches say and have a good attitude about it."

United are third in Group A with three points from two games, a point behind leaders Fenerbahce, who have ex-United striker Robin van Persie in their squad.

 

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