MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Nov 21- The need for speed saw Wayne Rooney parked back on the Manchester United bench on Saturday.
As Jose Mourinho was at pains to point out, the demotion of the England captain had nothing to do with the boozy gate-crashing of a wedding party while on international duty.
Having publicly put an arm round Rooney’s shoulders, the pragmatic boss did not extend his sympathy to his team selection.
Mourinho looked at the opposition, decided the player was not quite up to it and chose Juan Mata, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford instead. Rooney, who started United’s last two matches, was dropped.
‘I thought we were going to have the ball,’ Mourinho explained after 31-year-old Rooney’s 30-minute cameo.
‘Arsenal are a team who let the opponents play. I thought we would have space and the ball would arrive quite easily to the attacking players. I believed ones like Mata, Martial and Rashford were faster than Wayne, better attacking opponents one-to-one in the last line. I thought it was the best option.’
Rooney’s week started with a dawn bed-time and lurid headlines, and it finished with him labelling his critics ‘disgraceful’ in a passionate attack at the way he has been treated since his misbehaviour was made public.
He said: ‘I’m proud to play for my country and I’m proud of my achievements. It’s not finished yet. I think what’s been going on is disgraceful. It shows a lack of respect and I think enough is enough. It feels as if the media are trying to write my obituary and I won’t let that happen.’
Mourinho has a different, bigger picture, like working out how his team turned a decent performance into a third successive draw after Olivier Giroud’s late header cancelled out Mata’s opener.
Phil Jones compared it frankly to a ‘6-0 slapping’ and his manager said it was a miracle United did not win.
Amid all the angst and anger at Old Trafford there were signs that maybe, just maybe, the home side have reasons to be cheerful.
Finally, Mourinho appears to have found his best midfield combination. With captain for the day Michael Carrick and the busy Ander Herrera in the side, world record signing Paul Pogba looks like he has found his expensive feet.
‘Paul is adapting much better,’ the manager said. ‘He is much more confident. Obviously he plays with some guidelines over his position but at the same time with some freedom to occupy some attacking areas where he feels and thinks he can be important. He is comfortable on the pitch.’
The evergreen Carrick’s role in £89million Pogba’s improvement cannot be downplayed and Mourinho suggested he will be rewarded with a new contract.
‘Michael is 35 years old,’ he said. ‘It is very sad to know that time flies for every one of us. He is such a fantastic player and it is a pity, I always loved him, but instead of being his manager when he was 25 I am his manager when he is 35.’
He may still be staying in a hotel, but Mourinho appears to have already picked up the local dialect.
‘I am still having Michael Carrick,’ he added. ‘And probably for one more season.’
A relieved Arsene Wenger was left to hail the Gunners’ spirit. After a bright start they faded and spent long periods on the back foot and Giroud’s leveller, set up by fellow benchwarmer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, came out of the blue. A hint, maybe, that things may be different for the perennial Premier League bridesmaids this year.
‘The resilience was the main thing and we kept our composure as well, even at the end,’ the Arsenal manager said.
‘I believe there’s a great harmony in the squad. The players who come on make a difference every time and that’s not a coincidence. That is down to attitude and overall I took some gambles as well.’
For Wenger, the emotions were different from those of his hosts.
‘When you are 1-0 down, you come back to 1-1 with a minute to go, it feels more than a draw, that’s for sure,’ he admitted.
He too, was left frustrated, however. ‘We can accept a point here,’ he explained. ‘But we are getting too many draws at the moment and with three points for a win you cannot afford that too many times so it’s important for us to get back to winning habits.’
-By Daily Mail–