LONDON, November 2 – Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal declared on Monday that he retains total faith in out-of-form captain Wayne Rooney.
“He has more credits than any other player,” Van Gaal said. “I have explained that to the group already one and a half years ago. I have still confidence in Wayne Rooney.”
Rooney remains United’s leading scorer this season with six goals, although three of those came in one game away to Club Brugge in the Champions League qualifying play-offs.
The 30-year-old has generally looked well short of his best form of late, scoring only once in his last seven games and twice in the Premier League season to date.
United have failed to score in their last three matches and will make club history if they record a fourth successive 0-0 draw against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday.
But Van Gaal has remained unwavering in his support of England’s all-time leading scorer.
“You can discuss everything about the scoring of Wayne Rooney, but you can also discuss why other clubs are not scoring,” the United manager told his pre-match press conference at Old Trafford.
“It is always Wayne Rooney. I can imagine because Wayne Rooney is a fantastic player, the expectation is much higher than another player in another club.
“But you have to also give players time to come back in a certain shape and that is what we are doing.
“I have confidence in this player, but he gives also more than only scoring goals. He is our captain, but also an example for the whole team.”
– Litmanen precedent –
While Rooney is again set to lead United’s attack in a Group B match that looks pivotal to their prospects of advancing to the knockout stage, but Van Gaal has not ruled out the prospect of resting him in the future.
Former England striker Alan Shearer said in a newspaper column on Monday that Rooney — United’s third-highest all-time goal-scorer — should be left out of the side to regain his spark.
And Van Gaal said: “Yes, but not only for Wayne. I have done that for all my players. For example, Paddy McNair was a week in Ireland last week.
“When we think it is better, I do that. It is not a big issue for me because even when I was a very young trainer-coach I did it with Jari Litmanen (at Ajax).
“He had problems in the months of November and December, so I did it. I sent him on holidays. That is not a big issue for me, but it is more a big issue for the players. They are not so easy to convince.”
French holding midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin missed Monday’s pre-match training session because of a personal issue, but is expected to be available for selection.
Injured pair Antonio Valencia and James Wilson also sat out training, while Phil Jones and Memphis Depay, who missed Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace, trained separately from the rest of the squad.
“I think Phil Jones can play, but for Memphis it is too early,” Van Gaal told MUTV.
United are already without long-term injury victims Luke Shaw (broken leg) and McNair (abdomen).
Van Gaal’s side are level with CSKA on four points in Group B, two points below leaders Wolfsburg.