Jose Mourinho has reiterated his desire to keep Wayne Rooney at Manchester United by insisting he will never consider selling the club captain.

Rooney, who turns 31 on Monday, has struggled for form this season under the new Old Trafford boss, with his last three top-flight appearances coming as a substitute.

But Mourinho insists it has been hard enough leaving the England captain out of his starting XI – and says his achievements at the club make it almost impossible for him to even consider selling him.

The 30-year-old has faced a tough season to date and has been on the bench in recent games

When asked by Sky Sports if he would ever sell the United captain, Mourinho, who returns to former club Chelsea on Sunday, replied: ‘No, never.

‘I will never make that decision. A player of his stature, a player of his history in the club will never go to point where club or manager want to make that decision for him.

‘I put him [Rooney] on the bench for three matches in a row. That is hard for him, hard for me, so that is being ruthless, to put in my mind the interests of the team in front of the player, prestige, status. In this case even legend. To put on bench a player with the numbers he has for club and country is hard.

‘But as we were saying before, this is an industry where the people who leads, sometimes in a correct decision, sometimes not correct decisions, but in our mind the decisions we think is the best for the team.’

Rooney’s last Premier League start for United was the 3-1 defeat at Watford on September 18

Rooney is a major doubt for United’s Premier League clash at Chelsea after not travelling with the squad for the visit to Stamford Bridge.

The 30-year-old, who has faced growing criticism of his form this season, was not with his team-mates as they boarded the train for London on Saturday afternoon.

Sportsmail understands the United and England captain suffered what is believed to be a muscle tweak in training this week with the problem likely to rule him out of the game in the capital.

Rooney failed to travel with the United squad heading for Chelsea on Saturday afternoon

The captain made his first start in almost a month in Thursday’s 4-1 win against Fenerbahce

Mourinho, who will return to Stamford Bridge on Sunday 10 months after he was sacked by former club Chelsea, was unlikely to start Rooney anyway having used him as a substitute in United’s last three league matches.

The England skipper made his first start in almost a month in Thursday night’s 4-1 win against Fenerbahce in the Europa League, but was not part of United’s travelling party who headed to the capital from Stockport.

Rooney’s last league start for United was the 3-1 defeat at Watford, a performance which earned him his fair share of criticism.