Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up
NBCSports Header Logo

Mourinho on Wayne Rooney: “He will be a nine or a ten, never a six”

Jose Mourinho has never been shy with the media and his first press conference as manager of Manchester United certainly lived up to that.

So, that Wayne Rooney as a central midfielder experiment lasted a while...

Speaking to the media for the first time as United’s new manager, Jose Mourinho dashed any thoughts of Rooney, 30, playing in central midfield for the Red Devils next season.

[ MORE: Full transcript from Mourinho ]

Under Louis van Gaal, United and England’s captain was deployed in a deep-lying midfield role for most of the second half of last season and also played there for England at EURO 2016.

Yet, Rooney’s displays were hit and miss in a deeper role and it sounds like as long as Mourinho is in charge at Old Trafford, he will be reverting to his position as a striker.

Asked about where he sees Rooney slotting into his team at United, here’s the straightforward response from Mourinho.

“In football there are many jobs, there are many jobs on the field. The one that is more difficult to find is the guy who puts the ball in the net. Obviously the players change during the years, their qualities, their characteristics. It is normal that a player at this age changes a little bit but there is something that will never change. That is the natural appetite to put the ball in the net. So maybe he is not a striker anymore, maybe he is not a number nine anymore, but with me he will be never a number six, never somebody playing 50 meters away from goal.

“You can tell me his pass is amazing. Yes, his pass is amazing, but my pass is also amazing without pressure. There are many players with a great pass but to be there and put the ball in the net, that is the most difficult thing you have to find. For me he will be a nine, he will be a ten, he will be a nine and-a-half but not a six, not even an eight.”

This makes sense.

Yes, to those saying Rooney’s “legs have gone” I agree to a certain extent. However, he never had much pace to start with and although hard-working defensively, he does most of his best work when drifting into pockets of space in a free role behind a central striker.

Sounds like Rooney will get to play that role again under Mourinho as Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial or Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be deployed as the central striker.

Just four goals behind Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 249 goals for United, Rooney should stick to what he’s done best his whole career: scoring goals.

The all-time leader in goals for the English national team has previously spoken out about how much he enjoys playing in midfield and adapting to a new role he believes he will play more in the twilight of his career.

Well Wayne, I’d have a word with Jose if I were you...

Follow @JPW_NBCSports