Louis Van Gaal went all out to simultaneously pressure and support his captain at Friday’s press conference. As has been reported he said “He’s our captain so that’s very important because his influence is bigger than every other player in our group. He’s a very important player for me, his colleagues, everybody,”
Rooney would have been pleased to hear the words of encouragement from his manager, after a season in which he only has 1 league goal to his name. He has not scored away from home since his strike at Arsenal last season and he will not be buoyed by looking at his goal scoring feat at Goodison, where he has failed to find the net since 2007.
It is not all about the goals as Van Gaal himself stated “In the beginning your criticism was we don’t score goals but now we’ve scored a lot of goals and you’re picking up an individual player and I don’t like that.” What has been worrying for United has been the manner of performances that Rooney has produced in recent weeks. He has looked a shadow of his former self, the burst of pace seems to have faded, the chasing lost causes does not seem to be happening, and overall there seems to be a lack of fire, that spark is missing.
It may all be down to a lack of fitness and some bad luck, had that disallowed goal against Newcastle been allowed to stand, had he not suffered the injuries with England, we could well be talking a very different game. Rooney will be hoping to turn the tide in his favour, as after visiting the club where it all began for him, United travel to Moscow followed by the visit of Manchester City to the theatre of dreams.
Rooney will want to ensure the week does not end as a nightmare but rather a start of the glories to come.