Wayne Rooney says Manchester United’s players should take the blame for their less than attractive style of play rather than under-fire manager Louis van Gaal.
The United manager was booed following the 1-0 defeat by Southampton in the Barclays Premier League but Rooney, Daley Blind and Juan Mata eased the pressure with the goals in the 3-1 win over Derby in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday.
After the game Rooney said the players had to take their fair share of the blame for a season which so far has them in danger of missing out on qualification for the Champions League.
“It’s unfair to say it’s down to the manager – we’re on the pitch. So the players have to take a lot of responsibility for performances and results,” Rooney told several national newspapers.
“We have to stand up and take criticism when it’s there. We want to win, of course we always want to win, and we’re trying.
“Even when you’re giving 100 per cent, it doesn’t always come off and thankfully it did in our last match.”
Following the FA Cup win, where his opening goal at the iPro Stadium had been cancelled out by George Thorne, Rooney added: ” It was obviously a better performance than last week’s game but the manager gave us a lot of freedom to go and play – and I think you can see the difference in the team. You can see we were enjoying it, scoring some good goals and thoroughly deserved to win
“So hopefully we can put in another performance like this again on Tuesday and take it into the game against Stoke.”
The United captain has also set his sights on breaking a second of Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring records this season.
Rooney became England’s all-time leading scorer in September when he tucked away a penalty in a 2-0 win against Switzerland at Wembley – his 50th goal for his country.
And he has begun 2016 with a bang, scoring six goals in United’s six matches so far this year.
The 30-year-old’s strike in the fourth round tie was his 243rd goal for United and moved him to within six of another of Charlton’s long-standing records.
Charlton’s figure of 249 has stood since 1973 and Rooney said: “Of course I’m aware of it.
“Like the England record, when I was getting closer, it kept getting mentioned every week so that will probably start again with every goal.
“But it’s great to be mentioned again alongside Bobby’s record and hopefully before the end of the season I can go past that and then kick on again.”
Anthony Martial seemed to benefit most from the freedom the United captain refers to. The young Frenchman was a constant threat to Derby and laid on the goals for Rooney and Mata – earning praise from Van Gaal, who called his performance “fabulous”.
Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini agreed with their manager’s assessment of the 20-year-old.
“He’s showed what he’s got from day one to be honest, since his debut,” said Carrick, who returned from a four-match absence with a knee injury as a 74th-minute substitute at Derby.
“We’ve got to realise how young he is and we can’t expect everything all the time but when he’s playing like that he’s pretty much unplayable, so it’s nice to have him.”
Fellaini thinks Martial has the potential to become a star at United.
He said: ” He has a lot of quality. He can dribble and is always dangerous. He is young but you have to keep going and learn every day and he will be a good player.
“He must keep trying hard and keep going. Next season will be more difficult because the league will know him but I think he has the quality to be a success.”