Mourinho undecided over Rooney start

Jose Mourinho (right) supervising a training session yesterday. The Manchester United manager is ready to send a full-strength side out against Zorya Luhansk, but is delaying a decision on whether Wayne Rooney starts as his captain "can't afford" a s
Jose Mourinho (right) supervising a training session yesterday. The Manchester United manager is ready to send a full-strength side out against Zorya Luhansk, but is delaying a decision on whether Wayne Rooney starts as his captain "can't afford" a sub-par performance.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

MANCHESTER • Manchester United host unheralded Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford today with Jose Mourinho's side aiming to get their Europa League campaign off the ground after a bumpy start.

Mourinho's reluctant contenders in Europe's second-tier club competition kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 defeat at Feyenoord in Rotterdam a fortnight ago.

But United welcome the side who sit second in the Ukrainian Premier League with a renewed spring in their step after their weekend rout of English Premier League champions Leicester City.

Captain Wayne Rooney missed the trip to Feyenoord and Mourinho also left him on the bench for Saturday's emphatic 4-1 victory.

Speaking at his pre-match conference yesterday, Mourinho gave no clues to whether the England striker, who is under fire due to his poor run of form, will start against Zorya.

"I was completely convinced of playing him tomorrow," the manager said. "Now I'm not sure if I can do that because with the situation that you create to him, I think he really can't afford to have a performance that is not really good. "

If Rooney returns and scores, he will join Ruud van Nistelrooy as United's all-time top scorer in Europe with 37 goals.

"It's very important to win. If we don't win, we have four matches (left in the group) and I would say we have to win all the last four matches, which is difficult," Mourinho said.

The Portuguese also confirmed that Luke Shaw is out with an illness, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan is still not 100 per cent fit following his thigh injury.

Zorya travel to Manchester after a 1-1 draw with Fenerbahce. Midfielder Zeljko Ljubenovic spelt out the task facing his team.

"I watched their last match against Leicester. Hopefully we will manage to play better than Leicester did," the Belgrade-born 35-year-old told his club's website.

"We need to play very carefully in defence. I hope we'll be able to get a positive result. But I'm happy that we have a chance to test ourselves against such an opponent."

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MAN UNITED V ZORYA LUHANSK

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'Mourinho undecided over Rooney start'. Print Edition | Subscribe