Jose Mourinho reveals why he may be forced to drop Wayne Rooney again

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Rooney could be left out of Manchester United’s Europa League starting lineup after Jose Mourinho claimed he needs to “protect” the striker.

Rooney was dropped for last Saturday’s rout of Leicester and has not trained fully this week due to a back injury.

The England captain returned to training today at Carrington and United manager Mourinho will discuss whether he should start against Ukraine side Zorya Luhansk or be on the substitutes’ bench.

But Mourinho is mindful that the endless debate over Rooney’s form means he must carefully weigh up whether he will be able to perform to his best.

“Wayne Rooney is selected (in the squad). I did not decide yet if I start with him,” said Mourinho.

“He didn’t train yesterday. He did just a little bit of the session on Monday. He had a back problem. So today was the first time he had a training session with the other players and today it was a training session where the intensity and complexity is obviously reducing because we have a game tomorrow.

“I am not sure if I will play him from the start because of the situation you (the media) created with him.

“He can’t afford to have a performance that is not really good.

“Because I am here to protect him, and not to put him in difficult situations, I have to analyse whether the best thing for him is to start the game if he is not totally ready for it.

“So I am going to discuss that with him and the medical staff and decide whether he starts or is on the bench.”

Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Luke Shaw will both be absent, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic will start as United look to recover from their opening group defeat to Feyenoord.

“It is very important,” said Mourinho, who intends to play a strong team. “To be honest I think we have to win.

“If we don’t win we have four matches and we would have to win all of the last four matches, which is difficult. I think tomorrow it is very important that we win the game.”