Jose Mourinho has accused the FA of failing to look after Wayne Rooney properly, with the Manchester United manager suggesting his captain’s late-night antics were relatively tame.
Not for the first time in his career, the 31-year-old’s lifestyle has come under scrutiny after his starting role in the World Cup qualifying win against Scotland was followed by injury and controversy.
Rooney missed Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Spain due to a minor knee complaint and has dominated the headlines since then, with The Sun printing images showing the England skipper, wearing a training top, looking the worse for wear.
The forward is alleged to have dropped in on a wedding party at The Grove hotel until the early hours of Sunday, leading him to “unreservedly” apologise to interim England manager Gareth Southgate, the FA and young fans.
Mourinho feels last weekend “didn’t go well” for Rooney and indicated his annoyance at what has panned out since.
He did not apportion the blame necessarily at Southgate’s door – referring to the manager as ‘Gary’.
“I don’t speak, I don’t speak,” Mourinho said when asked if Rooney had been let down by the people around him.
“The only thing I say is that the player goes to the national team, he belongs to the national team.
“I learned since I was a kid, if somebody lends me something, I have to take care even better than if it was mine. Since the school, you know?
“Your friend lent you a pencil, you have to take care of the pencil better than if it is your pencil, so I think when one day if I become a national team manager I will try (to).
“I am not saying that I will be successful on that, and I am not being critic with Gary and with anyone.
“I get the occasion to wish Gary the best of luck publicly, but I think you have to build something to protect what is not yours, what someone lends you.”
Asked if Rooney should have been at the hotel bar until the early hours, Mourinho retorted: “I would have a great answer for you – I don’t want to have (one) because, again, I don’t want to speak about it.
“But if you go one by one to see where these 23 players were, some of them were in worse places than the hotel bar.”
Mourinho v Wenger
Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger insists his long-term rivalry with Mourinho is not what will pull in the audience when his Arsenal side travel to face United on Saturday.
The Frenchman has struggled against Mourinho down the years, winning just one of the 15 previous head-to-heads with the current United boss.
The pair have had touchline spats since Mourinho’s early days at Chelsea, with the Portuguese often using barbed comments aimed at Wenger.
Mourinho has since moved on to Old Trafford, a ground where Arsenal have not won in the Premier League for a decade, and all the elements are in place for another combustible afternoon.
Speaking on the eve of the contest, Mourinho said the pair boast the best record of any current top-flight managers and Wenger is keen to keep focus on the pitch – with a rare victory at United enough to take the Gunners top.
Wenger confirmed he would offer to shake Mourinho’s hand, a tradition which has not always been upheld by the rivals, and believes audiences will only be tuning in to see two teams fighting it out for three crucial points.
“I think, before a big game like that it is ‘Mourinho v Wenger’ but it is not that what is most important, what is important is the quality of the game when it starts,” he said.
“When you watch Real Madrid v Barcelona you want to see a football game and you are never disappointed because you see the quality of the game.
“Today, football has changed and even if it is Manchester United v Arsenal, if the game is not good after 20 minutes they move somewhere else, that is what has changed in the modern game.
“The audience is demanding, (Television) pays a lot of money for football but it is not the controversy before the game, that can attract a few hundred more, but it is not that what creates the audience.
“Some thing that has changed in the last five years is that the audience test the game and the quality of what they see and if it is not good they go somewhere else because they have five games a day.”