MANCHESTER — Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has said he is unsure whether to play Wayne Rooney against Zorya Luhansk amid media scrutiny of the striker.

Rooney could be on the bench for a second match in a row when United host Zorya in the Europa League on Thursday, having lost their opening game against Feyenoord, although Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to start.

Mourinho said at a news conference: “I was completely convinced of playing him [Rooney] tomorrow. I’m not sure if I’ll do that now because, with the situation that you create, I think he really can’t afford to have a performance that is not really good and I am here to protect him and have to analyse the best thing for him. If he is not totally ready for it, I will discuss that with the medical staff.”

Rooney was a substitute for the first time in the Premier League this season when United defeated Leicester City 4-1 on Saturday, and he has subsequently been suffering from a back problem.

Midfielder Jesse Lingard said of Rooney’s absence: “I don’t think there was a difference, it’s just the mentality on the match day.

“Wayne’s a top-class professional, top-class player, who’s won many things with Man United and he’s still got many years to go. He’s an inspirational guy and he’s a leader.

“Obviously against Leicester the manager switched up the team, gave it a different dynamic, and we won the game but, with or without him, we’re going to do the best we can as a team, because we are a team and we’re going to stick together.”

Looking ahead to their meeting with Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk, Mourinho said: “I think we have to win. If we don’t win, we have four matches [remaining in the group stage] and I would say we have to win all the last four matches, which is difficult.”

There have been fitness doubts surrounding Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw. Mkhitaryan trained but Mourinho said the Armenian will not play.

Shaw missed training and Mourinho said he is “ill” with a “temperature, fever and bad throat,” meaning “the doctor sent him home.”

Mourinho has said that Martial has not been suffering from a head injury and he was not happy when asked about the Frenchman, saying: “He’s now recovered from the contusion — not the concussion. He has recovered and he is ready for tomorrow.

“No more questions about [Marcus] Rashford? Why Rashford is playing so well? No more questions so now you turn to Martial?”

The Portuguese was also asked about Sam Allardyce’s departure from the England job and said: “I like Sam. I feel sorry for him. I know it was his dream job. I like him and respect him. What happened is not going to interfere in any way with my relationship with him. It is between him and the FA.”

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Culled from ESPNFC