Football: Rooney still not fit to play – Mourinho

 Manchester United's Wayne Rooney during training on Feb 21, 2017.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney during training on Feb 21, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - England captain Wayne Rooney is still not ready to return for Manchester United despite training on Tuesday (Feb 21) morning, manager Jose Mourinho said ahead of their Europa League clash with Saint-Etienne.

Rooney trained with his United team-mates in Manchester but was not part of the 20-man squad that flew to France for Wednesday’s last 32 second leg.

Asked if he would be fit for Sunday’s English Football League Cup final against Southampton, Mourinho was non-committal.

“I don’t know. This morning was the first time he trained and didn’t even train 100 percent with the group,” the Portuguese boss told reporters at Saint-Etienne’s Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

“You saw 15 minutes open to the press and yes, he was doing the warming up and the basic things after warming up, but then when the training session was higher in intensity, he was not training.

“No chance for tomorrow, he is not here, he stayed back training, and let’s see for the weekend.”

Pressed on when Rooney would be fit to return, Mourinho refused to be drawn on making any projections.

“He is injured, I cannot do miracles at that level. We have made great improvements with the medical department and getting players back into competition.

“That is a clear improvement, it is easy to see with data in that area. But Rooney is injured, he (has been) injured for two or three weeks.

“When you don’t have a player, you have others. The team is in a good moment. In the past few months we’ve lost only one game and it was one we could lose as it was a two-legged match.” .

The Europa League has taken on added importance for United, who are battling on four fronts, as it offers a qualification place to next season’s Champions League for the winners.

With United in a tight battle for a top-four finish in the Premier League – there will likely be three places up for grabs between five teams behind runaway leaders Chelsea – Mourinho said he wouldn’t be prioritising competitions.

“I want to win tomorrow (Wednesday). I don’t want to win Europa League or Premier League, I want to win tomorrow,” he said.

“I want to win the final on Sunday – Sunday at 7pm. I want to win against Bournemouth in the Premier League. That is the way I think all the time and during my career.”

Another player who didn’t make the match-day squad is England international full-back Luke Shaw, who has been out of favour with Mourinho.

After battling back from last season’s double leg fracture, Shaw has found games hard to come by since Mourinho succeeded Louis van Gaal, playing only once since November.

And Mourinho gave little indication the 21-year-old is likely to earn a starting place any time soon.

“He stayed behind in Manchester because I am playing with Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Matteo Darmian, and all of them are playing the way I like a full-back to play.

“Luke has to wait for his chance, he has to work better and better, knowing that I give nothing for free.

“When I give something for the players it is expensive for me, it is not cheap. They have to work really hard every day, they have to play well, so he has to wait and in this moment he is behind the others.”

United won last week’s first leg at Old Trafford 3-0 thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s hat-trick and Mourinho believes there will be no way back for Saint-Etienne if his team performs well on Wednesday.

“If we play normally, as we usually play, I think it is mission impossible for Saint-Etienne.

“Even though I think we played badly in the first 45 minutes of the first leg. I shall tell my players to forget about the final on Sunday. I want my players to be focused.”