Wayne Rooney could make his return for Manchester United in Thursday’s Europa League clash with Anderlecht, manager Jose Mourinho has confirmed.
The club captain has not played since the 0-0 Premier League draw with West Brom on April 1 due to ankle problems.
Mourinho says Rooney has shown encouraging progress in training and will be on the bench for the second leg of the quarter-final tie if he comes through Wednesday’s session unscathed.
However, Juan Mata, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones remain sidelined and are not expected to be back before the end of the season.
“No injuries from the game [Sunday’s 2-0 win over Chelsea], but also no-one recovered. Mata, Jones, Smalling – they are still out. Wayne is the only one that is possible, but I cannot confirm now,” Mourinho told a news conference on Wednesday.
“He’s working, he’s improving and, if in this session the answer is positive, I will select him to be on the bench.
“His experience, his know-how of this knock-out phase – I think he’s a player that can be useful tomorrow [Thursday]. He can help us.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 19, 2017
United were held to a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Brussels but Mourinho is confident that they can complete the job at Old Trafford, given that they have won all five of their home games in the competition this season.
“First of all, if you don’t concede, you go through, and that’s important for us to know,” he said. “At the same time, Anderlecht know that if they don’t score, they’re out. Let’s see what happens.
“We play at home and I know our record there in the Premier League is not the best, but in the Europa League we’ve won every match at home. Are we going to play for a 0-0? No.
“The first thing is to have the motivation high. At a club like United, when you start the Europa League, you don’t have the motivation high, but that’s September. At this stage, you have high motivation.
“We showed in Brussels that we are a strong team, but you have to equalise the motivational levels [shown against Chelsea], that’s the most important thing.”