Jose Mourinho: Wayne Rooney deserves a legend’s welcome at Old Trafford on Sunday

by Leo Nieboer

Jose Mourinho believes that Wayne Rooney deserves a legend’s welcome on Sunday as he returns to Old Trafford for the first time since joining Everton over the summer.

The 31-year-old became Manchester United’s all-time top goalscorer back in January but departed for his boyhood club on a free transfer in July after losing his first team place early in the season.

He has claimed two goals for the Toffees since arriving – against Stoke and Manchester City – and will be determined to assert himself at his former stomping ground after suffering consecutive 3-0 defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.

And Mourinho, speaking at a press conference ahead of the game, urged supporters to give Rooney the welcome he deserves on Sunday.

“I think that he will get the welcome he deserves,” he said.

“I think sometimes the word legend in this country comes too easy, that’s not his case, he’s a real legend, the number of goals, trophies, he’s clearly one of the most important players in Manchester United history and I think the stadium will show him that respect he deserves, I hope before the match and after the match, not during the match.”

Rooney’s time at United never followed a smooth tangent. The latter stages of his time at Old Trafford were indelibly tainted by form issues and the occasional advance towards the exit door. His exit, if we’re honest, came a few years too late.

But none of that should matter on Sunday. Old Trafford welcomes back a man who, for so many years, was at the forefront of United’s attacking menace and crucial to prolonging their success following Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2009. Never did his commitment to the cause on the pitch ever wane. He poured everything into his performances and, even during his decline, produced so many vital moments. That swerving run in the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace, for example, should never be forgotten.

Whether or not we should regard him as a legend is a debate I don’t want to air here, but one thing is clear: out of anybody on the pitch on Sunday, nobody has had a greater effect on the club’s history and success than the 31-year-old, and that in itself deserves rapturous acclaim.

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