Jose Mourinho believes ageing members of his Manchester United squad can “delay the end of their career” if they look after themselves properly and are assisted by the club.
Wayne Rooney has faced plenty of questions this season about the time he has left at the top, with the 2016-17 campaign proving to be something of a humbling experience for the 31-year-old.
He is no longer considered to be a guaranteed starter for club and country, despite being captain of both United and England.Rooney is, however, the Three Lions’ leading all-time goalscorer, while he drew level with the legendary Sir Bobby Charlton with his 249th effort for the Red Devils in an FA Cup win over Reading on Saturday.
He clearly still has a role to play, despite completing 90 minutes only seven times this season, but may need to accept that he is now more of a support figure than a talismanic leader.
Mourinho believes the same can be said for the likes of Michael Carrick and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who are both 35 years of age, with it possible that they can continue competing at the highest level with careful management.He said: “It’s always a pity when these guys, they go to the end, but they get older and we cannot stop the clock.
“But when they take good care about themselves, when the wives help, when they train well, when the manager and the staff is intelligent enough to understand the difference between the body of a teenager or the body of a man of thirty something … they can delay the end of their career.”Pressed specifically on Rooney’s future, Mourinho concedes it is impossible to tell how much longer he can continue.
He is tied to a contract which is due to keep him at Old Trafford until 2019, with there no indication from the player or club that they are looking to part ways any time soon.“I don’t know, it depends on him — especially on his brain, on his desire,” Mourinho said when quizzed about Rooney.“I think everything is about desire, more important than anything else. I think he has motivation so if he keeps motivation he can play.”