Football

Rooney: Jose restored winning mentality

United captain hails new boss' influence at Old Trafford

MAN UNITED WATFORD

Wayne Rooney says Jose Mourinho's winning mentality has sharpened the minds of Manchester United players.

Life since Sir Alex Ferguson brought the curtain down on his remarkable reign has been galling for a club synonymous with success.

Last season's FA Cup is the only major trophy United had to show for the subsequent three seasons, with the 20-time Premier League champions even failing to qualify for the Champions League in two of those campaigns.

Mourinho is now entrusted with restoring the club to the top of the English game and United captain Rooney has praised the Portuguese's influence at Old Trafford.

"He's obviously a top manager - his record at all the clubs he's been at shows that," the club's all-time top scorer said.

"He knows what he wants from the players and the players know what the manager wants from them. He's strong in that sense but, as long as you're doing what he wants, then I'm sure you'll be fine.

"You can see that he has got a winning mentality - not that we didn't have that already, but Mourinho has certainly reminded us of that."

There is still work to do, though, highlighted by the fact United sit sixth in the English Premier League - albeit just five points split them and second-placed Tottenham.

Rooney accepts leaders Chelsea - 14 points better off than United - are all but out of reach, but is confident of providing some memorable moments before the season is out.

"It's going okay," he told GQ.

"We're in a good position in terms of making the top four. Obviously, our ambition was to try and be champions, which will be difficult now. We know that. But we're right there in terms of trying to place ourselves in the top four.

SQUAD IMPROVEMENT

"We're still in the Europa League, in the final of the League Cup and still in the FA Cup, so they're trophies we believe we've got a strong enough squad to go and win. Obviously, we now have to look at trying to finish in the top four."

Meanwhile, Ed Woodward has promised to keep improving Man United's squad, although the executive vice-chairman has said this summer's transfer window will not see the same "churn" of players.

United have splurged vast amounts on new players since Ferguson's retirement, including last summer's world-record acquisition of Paul Pogba after deals for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly.

Those signings led to a 14.2 per cent rise in the wage bill over the previous year quarter, as shown in United's financial results for the quarter ending Dec 31, 2016, and costs could increase further if the likes of Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann arrive at the end of the season.

"Are we happy with the roster at this point? Yes, there's a happiness from the manager at this point, as you can tell in all his recent interviews in terms of where we are as a squad," Woodward said.

"There's always going to be continual improvement. Even if you win everything, you still want to improve the squad - that's the nature of the dynamic industry that we're in.

"But we aren't necessarily in a position where we have to churn a large number of players.

"We want to get to a more steady state and be buying and potentially selling a lower number of players each year.

"We're in that kind of environment now compared to where we were two, three years ago, when perhaps there was a little more churn required from the playing squad perspective." - PA SPORT

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