Jose Mourinho hoping to call on Wayne Rooney experience vs. Anderlecht
MANCHESTER -- Wayne Rooney can still play a part in Manchester United's bid to win the Europa League, but manager Jose Mourinho says that the England captain must prove he is over the "small problems" that have dogged him all season.
Rooney, 31, has been sidelined with a double ankle injury since making a substitute appearance against West Brom on April 1, but the forward has not started a game for United since the 1-1 draw against Bournemouth at the beginning of March.
With growing uncertainty over his future at the club, Rooney's recent absences have raised the prospect of United's all-time record goal scorer not appearing again for Mourinho's team.
But with United due to face Anderlecht in the Europa League quarterfinal second leg at Old Trafford on Thursday, Mourinho says Rooney can still contribute, despite his age prolonging the time he has spent on the sidelines.
"He is working now and he is improving and, if in this training session the answer is positive, I will select him to be on the bench tomorrow," Mourinho said. "With his experience and know-how of this knockout phase, he is a player who can be useful.
"If we need a goal, he can help us. If we need to keep a result, have possession, keep the ball, he can help us too.
"So hopefully his answer in the training session is positive.
"He had not big problems during the season, but a few small problems and sometimes when you get into a certain age ... I am not saying he is old, we have older players, there are many older players in great conditions, but when you get to a certain age, it is a little bit more difficult to recover.
"I think it is just that."
Mourinho added that United's lack of depth means that Rooney's presence in the squad could be crucial over the final six weeks of the season, particularly if they progress to the Europa League final on May 24.
"We have seven games to play in the Premier League, one, three or four in the Europa League, so we could have 10, 11 matches and we don't have lots of players," he said.
"We lost players in the January market, we didn't bring in anyone, we lost players in international week, so we need everyone that can and Wayne can. Hopefully he is there.
"He is the only player who was injured who might have a chance to play tomorrow. Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Juan Mata are still not available.
"But Wayne is still possible. I cannot confirm now, but the paparazzi at the Lowry Hotel can confirm when we report at 6 p.m. I would like him to be selected."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_