Jose Mourinho is weighing up whether to start Wayne Rooney in the EFL Cup final after the Manchester United ended speculation about his immediate future.
Talk had been growing over the 31-year-old making an Old Trafford exit, with his agent Paul Stretford understood to have been in China this week speaking to interested clubs.
However, Rooney put to bed speculation regarding his future for the rest of the campaign on Thursday, confirming he was staying at Old Trafford in a statement.
United boss Mourinho was pleased by the content and timing of the statement from Rooney, who will be in the squad for Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Southampton despite a recent hamstring injury and dropping down the pecking order.
United’s all-time top scorer may even start at Wembley after in-form Henrikh Mkhitaryan sustained a hamstring issue of his own, but Mourinho stopped well short of declaring Rooney would start.
“I have to make a decision,” Mourinho said. “You know that we normally play two different systems – sometimes we play with two midfield players and a number 10 if you want to call it (that).
“Sometimes we play with a number six and two midfield players in front.
“Without Mkhitaryan, if we want to play with a number 10, obviously Wayne, it’s his position, it’s where he was playing with us many matches, so he is an option for me.
“A final is a special match and he is an option for me.”
Asked if sentiment comes into his team selection, Mourinho said: “It’s the best 11 players. We win all together, it doesn’t matter if you don’t play much. I go for the best possible team.”
Michael Carrick is available to the United boss and Phil Jones could return from a foot injury at Wembley, where Southampton are looking to win just their second ever major trophy.
Saints upset the odds against United by winning the 1976 FA Cup and Mourinho has warned a similar outcome will be on the cards unless the current crop match the desire of Claude Puel’s men.
“If they want it more than us, they win,” he said. “If they want it more than us, they win, so we have to be sure that they don’t want it more than us.
“That’s the point. They want a lot, of course they want a lot. Of course they want a lot, but I don’t think that they want it more than us.
“So I think the best team on the pitch will win and it will not depend on motivations because I don’t think that they are more motivated than us.”
Mourinho was not interested in talking about matching Sir Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough’s record of four wins in the competition, but pointed to the fact that United already have a trophy in the shape of the Community Shield.
This, though, is a far more important trophy and one that can help cultivate a winning mentality.
“I think when you have a taste of good things, you want to repeat,” Mourinho said. “I think when you get used to winning, when you don’t win, you miss it. You miss it.”