MANCHESTER, England (REUTERS) - Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho dismissed as "nonsense" media reports that captain Wayne Rooney is open to the idea of returning to his boyhood club Everton at the end of the season.
The 31-year-old striker's future was the subject of speculation last month, with British media reporting that a move to China was on the cards until Rooney released a statement reiterating his commitment to United.
Rooney, the all-time leading goalscorer for club and country, has started eight Premier League games this season and has not played since Feb 1.
Mourinho said the striker was in the squad for Saturday's league clash with Bournemouth, "with possibilities to... start or be on the bench."
Since he had decided to "help the team and to fight for Manchester United he's an important player for us," Mourinho told reporters on Friday (March 3).
"I think by giving you these two details I'm telling you all the talk about Everton for me makes nonsense."
Newspapers in London and Liverpool reported Rooney was open to a return, while Everton manager Ronald Koeman said he would welcome the striker back.
Mourinho would "100 per cent" like Rooney to still be at United next season, "but I don't give you 100 per cent and I like the players to be happy and not just to be with me because I want them with me."
Rooney has been kept out of the team by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has scored 26 goals in all competitions this season, and Mourinho said he wanted the Swede to extend his current one-year contract.
"It's been an amazing successful year for him," the manager added. "This team has a lot to grow up... So I think Zlatan will be fundamental in the second year of this team and I think he's willing to stay."
United Full back Luke Shaw is set for his first league appearance since the end of October when sixth-placed United host 14th-placed Bournemouth in Saturday's early kick off.