Jose Mourinho has confirmed that forward Wayne Rooney is unlikely to feature against Middlesbrough on New Year’s Eve. The north-east outfit are the visitors to Old Trafford, and they are against a United team who have won the last four league matches. United have certainly hit top form for the first time this season. Yet, they have been able to do without players like Wayne Rooney, who has become increasingly marginalised this season.
Rooney has started just eight league matches and has scored just one goal. After being on the sidelines for a long period during the months of October and November, the striker started seeing some action of late. He played for a majority of the game against the likes of Crystal Palace and West Brom. Rooney provided the assist for United to score one of the goals in the 2-0 win over West Brom. Since then, however, he suffered a muscle injury, which kept him out of the 3-1 win over Sunderland.
It was expected that Rooney would be back in time for the home match against Middlesbrough, but Mourinho says that it will not be the case. The manager was quoted by the club’s official website saying;
“Honestly, I don’t think so. I hope so. I would like to have him, he’s always a player I would like to have but I have my doubts. Let’s see the evolution [of the injury].
“It’s a strange muscle, a big muscle surrounded by others and you can have an injury there but still be able to move well. He was not feeling very confident. It’s not a big deal but, in four days, I have my doubts.”
It is a major disappointment for Rooney, who may face an even bigger struggle in order to get into the first-team. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is on the verge of making the right side of the front three his own. This would leave Rooney to complete with players like Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, and Juan Mata for the left attacking position.
Even as players like Anthony Martial struggled for first-team action, Mourinho recently claimed that he has a number of players competing for the position that would complement Zlatan Ibrahimovic. As a result, he says that he cannot guarantee a player more than four or five games in a row. Yet, the form shown by Henrikh Mkhitaryan would make it almost impossible for the manager to drop. The Armenian international has scored three goals in his last three matches, and he has finally been the reason for United’s comeback to form.
Since there is no shortage of games until the end of January, Rooney is likely to be relaxed about the situation. Manchester United have a run of five games until January 15, and it is highly likely that manager Mourinho will have to rotate his team in order to keep everyone fresh. On the positive front, four of those five matches are at Old Trafford, where United have not suffered a defeat since the 2-1 loss against Manchester City back in September.