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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 16 February, 2019

Mourinho will never play Rooney in midfield, hits back at criticism about young players

The new Man United boss also says he is looking forward to bringing in his fourth signing of the summer.

Rooney will be used as a striker, according to his new boss.
Rooney will be used as a striker, according to his new boss.

MANCHESTER UNITED BOSS Jose Mourinho has stressed Wayne Rooney’s future at Old Trafford is in attack rather than in midfield.

The experienced forward, 30, regularly featured in midfield under Louis van Gaal last campaign, while he also held a similar role for England at Euro 2016.

Nevertheless, Mourinho is adamant scoring goals remains Rooney’s biggest strength and made it clear the England and United captain will no longer play in such a deep-lying position.

“I think in football there are many jobs,” Mourinho said at a media conference on today. ”The hardest to find is the one who puts the ball in the back of the net.

“It is normal, at his age, for a player to change a bit. Players’ characteristics change throughout the years. But one thing that will never change is the appetite to put the ball in the net.

“He is maybe not a number nine anymore but, for me, he will never be a number six. He will never be 50 metres away from the opponents’ goal. Yes, he has a great pass, but there are many players with a great pass. I have a great pass under no pressure.

“He will be a number nine, a number 10, maybe a nine-and-a-half, but never a number six or even a number eight.”

Mourinho says he is working on wrapping up the signing of a fourth transfer target after suggesting a deal to bring Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Manchester United is all but complete.

United have already snapped up Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic since Mourinho was appointed, with Mkhitaryan’s arrival from Borussia Dortmund appearing imminent.

And Mourinho has now revealed his hopes to secure a mystery fourth player to maintain his pre-season recruitment drive. “I don’t know how many more changes we need,” he said. “The third player will be official soon.

“We have made four positions a priority. Positions that we need for a certain balance.

“I am a manager who likes specialists over versatile players. I like one or two versatile players, because you always need them when you have injuries at some point. You need a left-back or a midfielder who could play at centre-back when necessary.

We want four players and we almost have three now. When the fourth target is in, we will breathe easily. We will get the fourth player well before the transfer deadline. But the market is still open then. You never know what happens.

“It is important for me that all my players are happy. Maybe someone might want to leave and we agree to it. Then someone else might have to come in.

“So we could sign some additional players. We are doing well and are getting the players we want. We hope to sign a fourth player soon.”

Jose Mourinho Photocall - Old Trafford Mourinho during his unveiling. Source: Tim Goode

Mourinho has often been criticised for his reluctance to play youngsters, but the former Chelsea manager was quick to point out nearly 50 players have made their professional debut under him throughout the years.

“I knew the question about youth players would come in. I promoted 49 players from youth academies during my time at various clubs,” said the Portuguese, who appeared to have a pre-prepared list of the names with him.

“Sometimes you promote players because you don’t have another choice. But I have always had very few injuries. My teams were often the teams with fewer injuries than other teams. I promoted youngsters because I believed in them, not because we had injuries.

“I have always been fighting for the title. There was never a situation without pressure. And we are talking about some big names who I promoted, players who won the Champions League who play at the Euros. So 49 is a lot.

“It is simply not true that I don’t count on young players.”

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