“What we decided to change after half-time, we managed to change,” he said. “And I think we made correct decisions.
“The game against Mexico will be a kind of final for both teams.”
Juan Carlos Osorio’s Mexico sit top of Group A, level on four points with Portugal but having scored a goal more, though they know that status will be under threat, given the European champions face bottom side New Zealand on the same day.
El Tri had to battle back from a goal down against the side from Oceania on matchday two to claim a 2-1 win that moved them into pole position to qualify, although their performance came in for plenty of criticism back at home.
Osorio, however, felt that the tactical changes they made and the way they performed in the second half are real causes for optimism.
“There’s no team in the world of football that doesn’t have to suffer at some point or other,” he said.
“After the half-time team talk, we came out in the second half and played a faster game with our wide men.
“We also switched to a lone striker, with the other forward – Oribe Peralta – at the tip of the diamond. Hector Herrera had a big impact on the game when he came on. He created passing angles and he helped us a lot, just as he did against Portugal.
“That was one of the key factors and I think we totally outclassed our opponents in the second half.”
These two teams drew in their only competitive meeting to date in the 1970 World Cup and a point apiece could be enough to send both teams through, but only if New Zealand record a shock victory over Portugal.
Key Opta Stats:
– This will be the first meeting between the two sides in any competition since 1994, when they met in a friendly; Russia ran out 4-1 winners that day.
– Russia have won just one of their last five competitive matches, a 2-0 win against New Zealand in the opening game of this year’s Confederations Cup (D1, L3).
– In contrast, Mexico have lost just one of their last 15 games in all competitions (W10, D4), and are unbeaten in their last five in a row (W3, D2).
– Russia failed to record a single shot on target in their last game against Portugal, the first time in this year’s Confederations Cup that a side has failed to register at least one.
– Fedor Smolov has scored five goals in his last five games for club and country combined, including two in his last four for Russia.
– Mexico’s last 13 goals at the Confederations Cup have all come from inside the box, including one penalty, with eight of those being headed goals.
– Guillermo Ochoa has recorded a 97 per cent passing accuracy so far in the tournament (30/31), the highest of any player to make 10+ passes.
– Raul Jimenez has six goals in his last nine games in all competitions for club and country, including three in his last five for Mexico.
It is 29 days since Wayne Rooney admitted after the Europa League final win at Stockholm’s Friends Arena that he had “more or less” made a decision on his Manchester United future. Yet with just 23 days until the club plays their first preseason friendly, the world is still waiting to discover where he will be next season.
The former England captain — a title he must now learn to live with after being overlooked for Gareth Southgate’s last two international squads — has since been on holiday with his family and had plenty of time to think about the options available to him. But with Jose Mourinho’s squad due to fly out to Los Angeles for their preseason preparations in just over two weeks’ time, he remains a United player.
Rooney has embarked on his own personal training regime to ensure he is ready for the start of preseason (although it is no longer unusual for elite players to maintain their fitness levels during the summer) and the signs are he will report back with the rest of Mourinho’s squad next month and take his seat on the plane to California.
When the 31-year-old spoke after United’s 2-0 Europa League final victory over Ajax in Stockholm, it was with a poker face. He knew the options which lay before him and gave little away, but none are likely to have kept him awake at night with anticipation.
Even during the traditionally quiet month of June, when footballers, managers and agents attempt to switch off for a brief period during what has become an 11-month season, big transfers have been agreed and speculation has swirled around star names being lined up for multi-million pound moves elsewhere.
But when it comes to Rooney, a player who remains United and England’s all-time leading goalscorer and is a stellar name still capable of giving a new club a major shot in the arm commercially, there has been nothing but silence.
Sources have told ESPN FC that United have had precious few enquiries for a player who remains under contract for at least another 12 months at Old Trafford — with an option to extend for a further year — and Rooney knows the only way he can earn anywhere near the £300,000-a-week he receives at United is by taking a step into the unknown and moving to China.
Everton, the only Premier League team that Rooney would ever consider leaving United for, would not be able to pay even half of his salary and the striker would also be wary of risking the goodwill that he has regained at Goodison Park by forcing his old club to smash their wage ceiling. Not to mention the immense pressure he would be under to justify it if they did.
Stoke City would be prepared to offer Rooney a move away from Old Trafford, but even though it would work geographically and see him reunited with close friend Darren Fletcher at the bet365 Stadium, he has been firm over his desire to stay loyal to United and Everton, stating: “I’ve played for two Premier League clubs and they’re the only two Premier League clubs I’ll play for.”
Major League Soccer is no longer a viable option due to the efforts being made in the United States to target younger players on lower wages rather than the route of handing one last pay-day to veterans like Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard.
The Chinese Super is where the money is and Rooney could sign a deal which exceeds his United earnings if he is prepared to head East. But one of the Premier League’s greatest ever players would be loath to end his stellar career in China, out of sight and out of mind. He would want better than that.
But when he peers through the Old Trafford exit door, the landscape is pretty bleak for Rooney, so perhaps the best option of all is stay at United and do what he has done throughout his career: prove the doubters wrong.
There can be no arguing against the statistics which suggest that Rooney is now a declining force. He scored just eight goals in 39 appearances for United last season — his worst return by some distance since arriving from Everton as an 18-year-old in 2004 — and his last three campaigns have been the three lowest-scoring seasons of his United career.
But despite the loss of his explosive bursts of pace and ability to lead the line as he once did on a regular basis, his experience remains a useful commodity to Mourinho and he showed flashes during the final weeks of last season that he would be able to offer something of value next term.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic having been released on a free transfer following his cruciate ligament injury, Mourinho is already one man down on last season’s strike-force. United will sign at least one new striker this summer, and with a Champions League campaign to look forward to, Mourinho will need to rotate and freshen up his squad.
Rooney could be the wise old head up-front that Michael Carrick has been in midfield, but he will have to accept that he can’t play every week. He has a year left on his contract and most likely still retains an inner belief that he can work his way back into the England squad in time for the 2018 World Cup, but if he is willing to sit on the bench then there may yet be a place for him at Old Trafford.
It’s a tall order but if he gets fit and stays fit, Rooney staying on at United may turn out to be the best option for both parties.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_
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