Jose Mourinho finally gave people what they wanted — he put Wayne Rooney on the bench. The result was a Manchester United team that looked the best it has all season, thrashing Leicester, 4-1. And still, after the match, Mourinho backed Rooney.
“A big player for me, a big player for United and a big player for this country,” said Mourinho, who brought Rooney in as a sub after the match was well out of hand. “I have nothing else to say, he is my man, I trust him completely, he is happy as I am in this moment.”
When asked before the match why Rooney was on the bench and whether it was a response to his poor play over the last few weeks, Mourinho was adamant that it had nothing to do with form. It was simply the fixture congestion, with the League Cup on Wednesday and the Europe League coming up on Thursday. Mourinho said he had to rotate the squad and Rooney missing out today simply meant he would start in the next match.
Mourinho is still figuring out his team and he's right that he will have to rotate players, so it would be foolish to make much of Rooney missing out on one match. But if he continues to struggle and Manchester United play better without him — having Juan Mata further up the pitch and an option to feed instead of Rooney dropping back and taking some of the distributor responsibilities from Paul Pogba was huge — then Mourinho will have to reconsider who is in his first XI, playing in the Red Devils' biggest matches. For now, he is standing behind Rooney, though.