Jose Mourinho has said Manchester United supporters will give Wayne Rooney a hero's welcome during Sunday's home game against Everton having stressed the club's former captain deserves his legend status.
Mourinho was in full praise about Rooney ahead of his first return to Old Trafford since his summer move to Everton, but was also adamant he did not want the game to be dominated by talk of his return.
The Portuguese manager once again expressed his view that Rooney, United's all-time record goalscorer, should be regarded as a United legend, but immediately stressed that he is an Everton player now who will want to beat them on Sunday, as reported by the Guardian.
Rooney makes a first return to Old Trafford in Sunday's late kick-off since departing for Everton in the summer, with Romelu Lukaku moving the other way for an initial £75m.
"I think he'll get the welcome that he deserves," said Mourinho, whose side go into this weekend's fixtures sitting top of the Premier League. "I think sometimes, in this country, the word legend comes too easily. It is used too easily, but he deserves that title.
"He's a real legend of the club. 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."
Last season he lost his starting place under Mourinho. Yet the manager would not be drawn on whether Rooney, who is now a regular at Goodison Park, has benefited from his move, as per the Telegraph.
"He is an Everton player but I'm not going to speak more," Mourinho said. He's a legend, he deserves to be welcomed that way but during the match he's an Everton player."
Rooney played 559 matches for United and won five Premier League titles, the Champions League, the Europa League, the FA Cup and three League Cups, and was voted the 2010 PFA and Football Writers' player of the year.