Jose Mourinho has backed Gareth Southgate’s decision to retain Wayne Rooney as England captain and stressed the striker’s importance to Manchester United this season despite losing his regular starting place.
Rooney, 30, is expected to be on the bench for the third match running against Stoke on Sunday but the blow hasn’t affected his influence or status as United’s skipper among the players.
‘He is my captain, captain of the club and captain of the players no matter what. It doesn’t matter whether he is on or off the pitch,’ said Mourinho.
‘I am very happy with the (England captaincy) decision but Gareth always has my support as Sam (Allardyce) had, as Eriksson had, and all the ones in my time as a Chelsea manager or Manchester United manager.’
Rooney came off the bench to set up Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s winner in the Europa League against Zorya Luhansk of Ukraine on Thursday night.
It continued United’s streakish form this season: four wins followed by three defeats in a row and now three successive victories.
Though Rooney has been heavily criticised for his form and hasn’t scored since the opening weekend of the season, Mourinho sees him as vital in bedding in new talent like Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly.