Rooney didn’t get a proper send-off at Old Trafford as his future at United was still very much uncertain, publicly at least, when the 2016-17 campaign ended.
He went on to re-sign for his boyhood club Everton on a free transfer, while Romelu Lukaku went the other way after the Toffees accepted United’s reported £75-million bid plus add-ons.
Despite missing out on a chance to say goodbye while he was still with the club, manager Jose Mourinho is confident the club’s all-time leading scorer will get an overwhelming positive reception from the faithful.
“Sometimes the word legend comes too easily but he’s a real legend of the club,” Mourinho said Saturday, according to Jamie Jackson of the Guardian. “The number of appearances, goals, trophies – clearly he’s one of the most important players in the history of Manchester United. I think the stadium will show him the respect he deserves. I hope before the match and after but not during it.”
Rooney won just about every major honour during an illustrious career at United that spanned 13 years, playing a pivotal role in adding five Premier League titles, Champions League and Europa League trophies as well as several other bits of silverware to United’s trophy cabinet.
Life after Rooney has been wildly successful for United, with Lukaku appearing to be in the form of his life after scoring nine goals in all competitions.
But Mourinho doesn’t see Belgian striker reaching the record 253 goals Rooney scored during his 559 appearances for United because of the defensive nature in the Premier League compared to the style when the former England captain broke into the league.
“Wayne arrived much earlier (in age),” Mourinho said. “He spent probably 10 years of his career in a different Premier League to the one you have now, where it was easier to score goals. (Also) the difference between the top teams and the others (and) the profile of the competition. Now it’s much more defensive and more difficult.”
He added: “He’s a legend, he deserves to be welcomed that way but during the match he’s an Everton player.”