Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney saw himself demoted to the substitutes’ bench once again for his side’s match against Arsenal at the weekend.
Despite the loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic through suspension, manager José Mourinho resisted the urge to deploy his captain in a starting role, and all the experience that goes with it, and instead gave young Marcus Rashford the chance to impress up front.
Despite the lack of questioning as to why Rooney had been left out – he has not been a regular starter recently for the club – Mourinho still felt it necessary to explain that the 31-year-old had been left out for tactical reasons rather than the controversy surrounding his late-night drinking session while on international duty the week before.
Rooney’s lack of pace, in contrast with Rashford, Anthony Martial and Juan Mata, was seen as a drawback as Mourinho explained:
“I thought we were going to have the ball. Arsenal are a team who let their opponents play.
“I thought we would have space and the ball would arrive quite easily to the attacking players.
“I believed ones like Mata, Martial and Rashford were faster than Wayne, better attacking opponents one to one in the last line. I thought it was the best option.”
Quotes via ESPN FC
Rooney did have significant time on the pitch in the end as he was brought on as a 63rd minute substitute for Martial, but wasn’t able to make much of a contribution as the game finished 1-1. Juan Mata opened the scoring only for the home side to be thwarted by an Olivier Giroud header in the last minute of normal time.
However, he will be expecting to return to the starting lineup in Man United’s Europa League match against Feyenoord on Thursday. Mourinho’s side are currently third in their group and three points are essential if they want to still be playing European football after Christmas.