Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney has a chance of starting the EFL Cup final but Jose Mourinho insists sentiment will not play any part in his decision.
The 31-year-old on Thursday put to bed speculation regarding his future for the rest of the campaign, confirming he was staying at Old Trafford.
Mourinho was pleased by the content and timing of the statement from Rooney, who will be in the squad for today’s final against Southampton despite a recent hamstring injury and dropping down the pecking order.
United’s all-time top scorer may even start at Wembley after in-form Henrikh Mkhitaryan sustained a hamstring issue of his own.
“I have to make a decision,” manager Mourinho said.
“You know that we normally play two different systems — sometimes we play with two midfield players and a number 10 if you want to call it (that).
“Sometimes we play with a number six and two midfield players in front.
“Without Mkhitaryan, if we want to play with a number 10, obviously Wayne, it’s his position, it’s where he was playing with us many matches, so he is an option for me.
“A final is a special match and he is an option for me.”
Asked if sentiment comes into his team selection, Mourinho said: “It’s the best 11 players. We win all together, it doesn’t matter if you don’t play much. I go for the best possible team.”
Michael Carrick is available to the United boss and Phil Jones could return from a foot injury at Wembley, where Southampton are looking to win just their second ever major trophy.
Saints upset the odds against United by winning the 1976 FA Cup and Mourinho has warned a similar outcome will be on the cards unless the current crop match the desire of Claude Puel’s men.
“If they want it more than us, they win,” he said. “If they want it more than us, they win, so we have to be sure that they don’t want it more than us.
“That’s the point. They want a lot, of course they want a lot. Of course they want a lot, but I don’t think that they want it more than us.
“So I think the best team on the pitch will win and it will not depend on motivations because I don’t think that they are more motivated than us.”
Mourinho was not interested in talking about matching Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough’s record of four wins in the competition, but pointed to the fact that United already have a trophy in the shape of the Community Shield.
This, though, is a far more important trophy and one that can help cultivate a winning mentality.
“I think when you have a taste of good things, you want to repeat,” Mourinho said.
“I think when you get used to winning, when you don’t win, you miss it. You miss it.
“You don’t accept it and you are always chasing for more success, so I think it’s a good thing for them if we manage to win another trophy and keep fighting for me because we have chances in other competitions this season.
“We all know the history of this club, that football is changing, that it’s much harder than it was before.
“But last season was a very difficult season for the club and players, they all together with their manager, they managed to win a trophy, it was a good taste for them, so we have to try.”
Mourinho wore a shirt bearing Claudio Ranieri’s initials as a mark of his respect at his Friday press conference, and believes the Foxes boss was let down by the “selfishness” of others.
“It is my little homage to somebody that wrote the most beautiful history of the Premier League.
“Somebody that probably would deserve the Leicester stadium to be named ‘Claudio Ranieri’ — and he is sacked. So I think Leicester made history two years in a row.
“One year because they did the most beautiful thing in the Premier League and one of the most beautiful histories in football history.
“And now they are also in the highlights with the decision that I think has everyone in football united because it is something very, very difficult to accept.
“But at the same time, it is good for all of us to realise how football is at the time and we need to adapt to it.”
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