LONDON — Jose Mourinho faces one of the biggest decisions of his Manchester United reign as he weighs up whether to recall Wayne Rooney for the Premier League clash with bitter rivals Liverpool.
The 30-year-old’s troubles have led to a debate about whether he should be used in midfield instead of his long-time role as a striker, while some critics claim he is no longer worthy of his place with club or country.
After crushing Leicester in their first match without Rooney, United were less impressive in a draw against lowly Stoke and Mourinho might be tempted to bring him back at Anfield on Tuesday (3am).
Dwight Yorke, a Champions League and Premier League winner with United, has no doubts Rooney is still a force to be reckoned with.
“People in football have such bloody short memories. He has to get his confidence back and play in the manner we’re used to seeing, banging in goals,” Yorke said.
After losing their last four league meetings with United, Liverpool have a chance to make a statement about their title credentials.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have won four successive matches to climb to fourth place, and are hoping for a different result to the one he experienced when he first took them on after he became Liverpool manager last season.
“My first Premier League game against United was a good game from my side, we could have won the game but we didn’t because Wayne Rooney scored,” said Klopp.
“It will never, for as long as I live, just be a normal game.”
Mourinho tried to cool the rivalry between the clubs when he called for both sets of supporters to respect each other.
“In football, we have some ‘football tragedies’, which is the big match you lost, the mistake some player did and you can make fun of it in a positive way,” the Portuguese told reporters.
“But the human tragedy is something much, much more serious and is the last thing somebody should use on a football pitch.”
Last season, both clubs were fined by Uefa for crowd disturbances and supporters engaging in illicit chanting when they met in the last 16 of the Europa League.
Mourinho was then at pains to make clear that the outcome would not define United’s season, but said he appreciated how much the fixture meant to supporters.
“I’m in England for a long time,” he said. “Obviously I never played this match but I played many times against Liverpool, United. I understand the dimension of the clubs and now I understand better the history between the rivals.
“The season for me is not about the Anfield match though, or Old Trafford in January. It’s about many matches.” — Agencies