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BLANKED! Why returning Rooney deserved much better from Man Utd & Mourinho

COMMENT: Manchester United are better than this. At least, they should be. The fans recognised it. The manager also - well, to a point. This was no ordinary game. Wayne Rooney deserved better. Much, much better...

It should've been an occasion. A memory to last a lifetime. For Rooney. For United. For everyone at Old Trafford. Thirteen years a United player. Three as captain. And the club marks his first time back with... well... nothing? The Theatre of Dreams? Not on Sunday's evidence.

Mourinho should've intervened. A guard of honour before kickoff. How difficult would that be? Just to mark the moment. To show the world United do things differently. But they couldn't. Or better yet, wouldn't.

The guard of honour. The decision to put Romelu Lukaku's mug on the match programme cover. The rejection of even making a show of Rooney's name being announced amongst the Everton line-up. These were all conscious decisions. Cynical. Miserly. Pathetic decisions.

Yes. Rooney had his testimonial a year ago. At Old Trafford and featuring Sunday's two teams. But the makeup of the crowd and the atmosphere for such games are nothing like a Premier League fixture. The world was watching yesterday. It was United's chance to offer something different - and they blew it.

Thirteen years of service. Of trophies. Titles. Memories. The fans recognised it. From the moment he appeared for his pre-match warm-up, to his 82nd minute substitution, the home support were behind him. Fittingly, the day's bookends both appeared in front of the Stretford End. As did a final - and this column would argue sheepish - handshake from Mourinho after he was replaced by Kevin Mirallas. Mourinho made a point of getting across the touchline to meet Rooney. It was a good moment. But the United manager knows he should've done better.

They'll never get Sunday back. Rooney will return to Old Trafford, again and again. A routine league game. A Cup tie. Whatever the fixture. The novelty of seeing Rooney at Old Trafford in a Blue shirt will quickly fade. Sunday was the moment to give everyone something special to savour. And those pulling the strings just let it pass.

The contrast of Cristiano Ronaldo's return four years ago was highlighted going into the game. And rightly so. This was celebrated by United at the time. And by Sir Alex Ferguson, with his insistence that Ronaldo's name be read last by the stadium announcer now folklore.

Apparently it was all mind games. Fergie counting on the emotion to unsettle his old No7. But so what? Rooney deserved better. He stayed. He wore the captain's armband. He held the place together after Sir Alex left.

Ronaldo had six years at United before leaving for Real Madrid. Not 13. Yet the red carpet was rolled out for him. Given the United experience between the years of Ferguson and Mourinho, can any supporter seriously argue that Ronaldo would've stuck around in the same circumstances?

Rooney deserved better. Those in the media department, so pilloried by Mark Hughes during the week, should've stood up and insisted upon Rooney making the cover of Sunday's match programme. For the manager, Mourinho should've said 'sod it' and had his players grant Rooney a guard of honour pre- kickoff. So what if it inspired him? Surely his players could handle the response.

Instead, they it left to the fans to rescue the day, which Mourinho admitted after the 4-0 drubbing: “Every club in England does that. I can only speak by Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford but in both stadiums when we got former important players the reception is normally phenomenal. No surprise at all."

No surprise at all? Isn't that the problem? Just another routine game. United is better than that. Days at Old Trafford should never be routine. Especially when one of their own returns.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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