Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has stressed Wayne Rooney’s future at Old Trafford is in attack rather than in midfield.
The experienced forward, 30, regularly featured in midfield under Louis van Gaal last campaign, while he also held a similar role for England at Euro 2016.
Nevertheless, Mourinho is adamant scoring goals remains Rooney’s biggest strength and made it clear the England and United captain will no longer play in such a deep-lying position.
“I think in football there are many jobs. The hardest to find is the one who puts the ball in the back of the net,” Mourinho said at a media conference on Tuesday.
“It is normal, at his age, for a player to change a bit. Players’ characteristics change throughout the years. But one thing that will never change is the appetite to put the ball in the net.
“He is maybe not a number nine anymore but, for me, he will never be a number six. He will never be 50 metres away from the opponents’ goal. Yes, he has a great pass, but there are many players with a great pass. I have a great pass under no pressure.
“He will be a number nine, a number 10, maybe a nine-and-a-half, but never a number six or even a number eight.”
Mourinho has often been criticised for his reluctance to play youngsters, but the former Chelsea manager was quick to point out nearly 50 players have made their professional debut under him throughout the years.
“I knew the question about youth players would come in. I promoted 49 players from youth academies during my time at various clubs,” said the Portuguese, who appeared to have a pre-prepared list of the names with him.
“Sometimes you promote players because you don’t have another choice. But I have always had very few injuries. My teams were often the teams with fewer injuries than other teams. I promoted youngsters because I believed in them, not because we had injuries.
“I have always been fighting for the title. There was never a situation without pressure. And we are talking about some big names who I promoted, players who won the Champions League who play at the Euros. So 49 is a lot.
“It is simply not true that I don’t count on young players.”