Jose Mourinho has vowed to restore Wayne Rooney to Manchester United’s forward line after insisting that he expects the England captain to ‘put the ball into the net’ rather than making ‘amazing passes without pressure.’
Mourinho, speaking at his official unveiling as United manager at Old Trafford on Tuesday morning, marked his first press conference in charge of the club by delivering thinly-veiled swipes at predecessor Louis van Gaal and long-term rival Arsene Wenger.
The former Chelsea manager also admitted that Ryan Giggs, who ended his 29-year association with United last week, took a ‘brave’ decision to sever his ties with the club in order to pursue a career in management.
But with Mourinho insisting that his target is to restore United to title-winning contention and Champions League football, the Portuguese made it clear that Rooney – who is currently four goals from equaling Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time club goalscoring record – will not be encouraged to take on the midfield role which he performed for England during their disastrous Euro 2016 campaign.
“In football, there are many jobs,” Mourinho said. “There are many jobs on the field. The one that is more difficult to find is the guy who has put the ball in the net.
“The players change during the years their qualities, their characteristics, and it is normal a player at their age (Rooney is 30) change a bit.
“But there is something that will never change which is the natural appetite to put the ball in the net.
“Maybe he is not a striker, not a No. 9 anymore, but for me he will never be a No. 6, playing 50 meters from the goal.
“You can tell me his pass is amazing but my pass is also amazing without pressure. To be there and put the ball in the net is the most difficult thing.
“For me he will be a 9, a 10, a nine and a half but never a 6 or an 8.”
Having already completed deals for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Villarreal defender Eric Bailly, Mourinho hinted United are close to finalizing a £26.3m deal for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
With United also in the hunt for Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba, who could cost in excess of £80m, Mourinho insisted he will only add ‘specialists’ to his squad.
“I am more a manager that likes specialists and not so much the multifunctional players,” Mourinho said. “I am very clear in my approach.
“Multifunctional players are like one or two, when you are in trouble you need someone who can fill but basically I want specialists.
“We decided four targets. From these four, we have three and until we don’t have the fourth, we are still working hard, myself, the structure, Ed Woodward, the owners, we are working hard.
“When we have the fourth. I breathe and then the market will be open. We are not going to get the fourth on the 31st of August, we will get the fourth before then.”
Having been sacked by Chelsea last season, Mourinho hit back at suggestions that he arrives at United with a point to prove – once again casting the spotlight on those rivals who have waited ‘ten years’ to win the title.
“There are some managers that the last time they won a title was 10 years ago,” Mourinho said. “Some of them the last time they won a title was never.
“The last time I won a title was one year ago, not 10 years ago or 15 years ago, so if I have a lot to prove, imagine the others.
“But the reality is that was never important for me. I play against myself. That is my feeling many times.
“I feel I have to prove not to the others but to myself. I would never be able to work without success.”
Having inherited a United squad that his finished outside the top four twice in the last three season under David Moyes and Van Gaal, Mourinho insisted he would aggressively chase an immediate improvement and not ‘hide behind philosophies.’
“I was never very good playing with the words or hiding behind words and hiding behind philosophies,” Mourinho said. “I never tried to be good at that.
“I was always much more aggressive in my approach with the risks that can bring.
“I prefer to be more aggressive and say we want to win, so in this moment the last three years are to forget.
“I want the players to forget. I don’t want the players to think we have to do better and finish fourth. Finish fourth is not the aim.”
Mourinho, meanwhile, insisted Giggs would always be welcome back at Old Trafford following the Welshman’s decision to leave his post on the coaching staff to become a manager elsewhere.
“It is not my responsibility that Ryan is not in the club,” he said. “The job Ryan wanted is the job the club decided to give me.
“Ryan wanted to be Manchester United manager and the owners and Mr Woodward decided to give the job to me.
“For many of us, we start as assistant coaches and for many of us, arrives the moment we make a decision.
“For Ryan it is not easy to go the step from assistant to manager, it is the step to leave his house of 29 years.
“But he was brave,, he is honest, so good luck and if one day he wants to come back when I am here, I will never say no and if one day the club offers him the chance to be manager, I think it will something natural and the consequence of his success in his career.”