Wayne Rooney has opened up about how he felt “embarrassed” as he sat on the bench towards the end of his Manchester United career.
The 33-year-old, previously an untouchable in the starting XI, became a bit-part player under Jose Mourinho, making only 25 starts in all competitions ahead of leaving for Everton in the summer of 2017.
He has since moved to DC United, where he is excelling, and returned to his homeland for an emotional farewell appearance against the United States at Wembley.
Speaking in an interview with Sky Sports ahead of the game, Rooney opened up about how watching from the bench under Mourinho felt embarrassing.
“There are moments when you do doubt yourself,” he said. “I believe I was good enough to get back in the team, but I never really got that opportunity.”
“I came on for one minute in the Europa League final. I was about to come on against Southampton in the League Cup final, and in those moments it was embarrassing. It was getting to a point where I was embarrassed. I thought ‘I can’t keep doing this’, as hard as it was to leave United.
“In the Southampton game, Mourinho came to me and said: ‘I want you to lift the trophy.’ I was like: ‘Well, I didn’t even play in the game.’ He was persistent with it, and I literally lifted it and moved it on. What was I doing? I need to move on and go somewhere else.”
One of Rooney’s best qualities is the unyielding belief he has in his ability to impact games, to be the talismanic figure, the nucleus of a team.
By the time Mourinho came around, he was not good enough to start games any longer. That would have cut deep for a player so used to existing at the centre of things. To see him lingering on the sidelines, coming on for the last three minutes against Ajax, felt inherently strange, like an aberration of nature itself.
But it was, in fact, the right move by Mourinho, who deserves credit for smoothly transitioning to life after Rooney. That we must move on is a fact which applies to everyone – even someone as special as the club’s all-time top goalscorer.