MANCHESTER: Jose Mourinho, on his first day out in the open as Manchester United manager, has indicated clearly that captain Wayne Rooney’s days as a midfielder are at an end.
Rooney played in a variety of roles under former manager Louis Van Gaal and was handed a schemer’s role by England manager Roy Hodgson in the national team’s doomed Euro 2016 campaign.
But Mourinho wants to see Rooney back nearer the sharp end of attack.
He told a news conference: “In football there are many jobs on the field. The one that is more difficult to find is the guy who has put the ball on the net.
“The players change during the years, their qualities, their characteristics, but something that will never change is the natural appetite to put the ball in the net.
“Maybe he is not a striker, not a No9 any more but for me he will never be a No6, playing 50 metres from the goal.
“You can tell me his pass is amazing but my pass is also amazing without pressure. To be there and put the ball in the net is the most difficult thing. For me he will be a nine, a 10, a nine and a half but never a six or an eight.”
Mourinho, 53, has been charged with resurrecting the FA Cup holders’ title-winning fortunes after last season’s disappointing fifth-placed Premier League finish and their failure to secure Champions League qualification.
He said: “The reality is I think it is a job everyone wants and not many have a chance to have and I have it.
“I know obviously the responsibility, expectation and at the same time I know the legacy and what is behind me and the history of this club and what the fans expect from me.
“This challenge obviously doesn’t make me nervous as my history in the last 10 years was always to live with big clubs’ expectations and I think it comes at the right time in my career.
“I have great motivation and I can say I am where I want to be, I want to be in this club, in the Premier League and I feel frustrated I am not playing in the Champions League.
“I don’t hide. I chase Sir Alex’s record in Champions League matches. Hopefully it is only one season we are not there. Manchester United is a Champions League club.”
Mourinho said he was not over-awed by the task of restoring the Red Devils’ fortunes – despite the “disaster” which was the final few months of his Chelsea reign last season.
He said: “There are some managers who last won a title 10 years ago, some of them the last time was never. The last time I won a title was one year ago.
“I play against myself. I feel I have to prove not to the others but to myself. I play against myself. I feel I have to prove not to the others but to myself.
“I will never be able to work without success – that is my nature. I always have to find the reasons why I have so many questions.
“That is why I could not approach this job in a defensive point of view by saying the best we did was fourth and the FA Cup. I can’t go there.
“The last three years [under David Moyes and Van Gaal] I want to forget. I don’t want the players to start by thinking we have to do better.
“Doing better is to finish fourth. I want to be aggressive – we want to win.”
On his Chelsea failure last season he added: “I was in trouble for the last five months: the first month was fine, the second month was not so good and after the second month it was a disaster.”
Mourinho has already started the rebuilding effort at Old Trafford by bringing in defender Eric Bailly, striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and has a deal lined up for Borussia Dortmund playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
He believes he needs one more signing to make United effective again.
“We made four positions priorities to give a certain balance to the squad, to give a certain push in terms of quality and the qualities I need – especially the ones with more vision,” he said.
“I’m a manager that likes specialists. We decided on four targets; from this four we have three (Mkhitaryan is not yet confirmed however).
“Until we have the fourth we are still working hard. When we have the fourth I breathe, we all breathe, and then we are stable.”
Mourinho insists club stalwart Ryan Giggs, who was assistant manager but ended a 29-year association with the club at the weekend, was not forced out by him.
He said: “Ryan wanted to be Manchester United manager – the owners , the board decided the job was for me.
“From this moment Ryan wants to be a manager, like in 2000 when I decided myself I wanted to be a manager. Many of us are stuck as coaches and for many us we have to make a decision and Ryan made a decision.
“He could be what he wanted in the club. The club wanted to give him any important job – he made a decision where you need to be brave.
“It is not easy. I was in Barcelona in 2000 and had a contract for two more years to be assistant – do you think it was easy for me to leave such a big club and go to a new fight?
“It was not easy and for Ryan it is not going to be easy going from assistant to manager. But good luck and if one day he wants to come back to the club while I am here I would never stop him coming back.
“If one day the club offers him the chance to become the manager I think it will be something natural and a consequence of success in his managerial career.”