Henrikh Mkhitaryan is also pushing for a starting place.
By Teddy Cutler
Wayne Rooney is set to be restored to Manchester United’s first team for the UEFA Europa League game against Zorya Luhansk on Thursday at Old Trafford.
But away from the cup competitions, the England captain faces an increasingly fraught fight to win back his first-team place for English Premier League games.
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Rooney will start alongside Henrikh Mkhitaryan against the Ukrainian side, but only one of them will be picked in an attacking role against Stoke.
Mkhitaryan, the Armenian midfielder signed from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, had a disappointing first Premier League appearance against Manchester City in the derby on September 10, so much so that he was hauled off by Mourinho at half-time.
But Mourinho needs to find a way sooner rather than later to integrate one of his main summer signings, who would prefer to play in the number 10 role behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
That, after an aborted experiment in central midfield, also happens to be where Rooney needs to play, if he has any chance of getting back into United’s team for an extended run.
The game against Luhansk, then, looks like a straight shoot-out between Rooney and Mkhitaryan. Rooney needs to summon some old magic, to ensure his United career does not fizzle out completely.