The 31-year-old, with Mourinho notably keen to rest players ahead of Thursday’s clash with Celta Vigo, was handed just his fourth Premier League start of 2017 at the Emirates.
He was a busy presence during the opening stages but quickly faded in influence after missing a one-on-one opportunity in the first half.
But Mourinho, speaking after the game, was quick to praise his captain for the way he applied himself.
“In the first half he had the best chance of the whole game. He just had to put the ball through Petr’s [Cech] legs.
“He’s had shots and got into good positions. He’s ready to make contributions towards the end of the season.”
Nobody can ever fault Rooney’s commitment to the cause. He will always give everything. That But the problem – something Mourinho has crucially missed here – is that Rooney giving his best actually doesn’t transpire into anything substantial on the pitch. Marcus Rashford came on after 63 minutes and still managed to complete more dribbles than the captain.
Mourinho may be inclined to praise Rooney’s work rate, but this was another fruitless huffing and puffing episode that has occurred more frequently – and indeed become harder to watch – over the past few years.