Mourinho warns Wayne Rooney he will only pick the best for EFL Cup final
It’ 12 years ago this weekend since Jose Mourinho won his first trophy in English football, even though the then Chelsea manager watched the climax of his team’s dramatic win over Liverpool in the 2005 League Cup final on TV.
Mourinho was removed from the touchline on police advice after inciting Liverpool fans by putting a finger to his lips after Steven Gerrard’s own goal sent the match into extra time in Cardiff.
He claims to be a changed man. When asked on Friday what it would mean to become the first United manager to win a trophy in his first season, or move alongside Sir Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough as the only four-time winners of this competition by beating Southampton at Wembley on Sunday, he was unusually shy.
“I think it’s more important for the club than myself,” replied Mourinho. “I have so many good things in my career that I wouldn’t be influenced by a little detail.
“At the beginning of my career I was looking more to my personal accomplishment. Now I’m more and more a club man.”
What has not changed is his commitment to the League Cup, which he respects just as much as he did in that first season at Chelsea.
It was put to him that a Southampton team seeking the club’s first major trophy in 41 years will be more motivated than a United side for whom this remains the least important of four targets.
“If they want it more than us, they win,” said Mourinho. “So we have to be sure that they don’t want it more than us. That’s the point.
“Of course, they want it a lot but I don’t think that they want it more than us. It will not depend on motivations because I don’t think that they are more motivated than us.
“When you have a taste of good things, you want to repeat. When you get used to winning and you don’t win, you miss it. You don’t accept it and you are always chasing for more success.”
The 2004-05 season was also Wayne Rooney’s first at Old Trafford but the build-up to this game has been dominated by talk of him leaving.
Mourinho confirmed that his captain will be in the squad at Wembley after Rooney killed off speculation over his immediate future with a statement on Thursday night confirming that he will stay for the rest of the season.
‘Yes, he’s ready,’ said the United boss. ‘I told you that the questions you are asking me were questions for him.
‘Only he could answer and he did it exactly in the right moment with his statement.
‘He says he stays and helps the team to fight for the trophies. I will be happy with that.’
With Henrikh Mkhitaryan ruled out with a hamstring injury, Rooney is in contention to play in the No 10 role, but he is more likely to start what could be his last cup final for United on the bench.
Mourinho, for one, will not be swayed by sentiment.
‘Without Mkhitaryan, if we want to play with a No 10, obviously it’s Wayne’s position,’ he said.
‘It’s where he was playing with us many matches, so he is an option for me. A final is a special match.
‘But 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.’
For the man in the opposition dug-out, the occasion presents an opportunity to settle an old score as well as emulate Southampton’s win over United in the 1976 FA Cup final.
Claude Puel feels he was stung by United a decade ago when Ryan Giggs scored the only goal of a Champions League tie against his Lille side with a quickly taken free-kick.
Lille’s players congregated on the touchline following the disputed goal, delaying the match and turning the atmosphere hostile in the north of France.
United eventually qualified for the quarter-finals but Sir Alex Ferguson accused his counterpart of trying to convince Lille’s squad to walk off the pitch to get the first leg abandoned and branded his counterpart ‘a disgrace’.
The usually calm Puel admits he was furious that the goal stood despite it being taken before the referee blew his whistle, and says he will be equally incensed if United show any kind of disrespect again.
‘I didn’t want to stop the game, I was just angry about the free-kick because the referee did not allow us to put up a wall,’ Puel said. ‘It was an opportunity to permit Manchester United to win the game. There was no respect for us, I think, and the referee made a mistake.
‘It was difficult to accept because Giggs kept the ball in his arms and so it was not possible for my goalkeeper to build his wall and then he put the ball down straight away and shot.
‘Now, [my anger] would be the same.’
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