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Jones: Wayne game not all goals

PHIL JONES does not believe Wayne Rooney has to score in order to make a positive contribution to the Manchester United cause.

Rooney bagged his first Premier League goals since September as United romped to a 4-1 victory over Wolves in front of their biggest crowd of the season at Old Trafford.

It was a positive end to an eventful week for the 26-year-old, who managed to get his Euro 2012 suspension reduced to two matches from three, clearing him to face co-hosts Ukraine in the final Group D game in Donetsk on June 19.

However, less than 24 hours before, Rooney missed the Red Devils' best chance as they crashed out of the Champions League to Basle.

It would be easy to make a connection between Rooney's disciplinary problems being dealt with and the freedom of his overall performance on Saturday.

But Jones feels goals should not be the only factor by why Rooney's contribution is judged.

"Wayne was brilliant," he said.

"But he still has an influence on the team even when he is not scoring. The things he does off the ball are terrific as well.

"People sometimes don't take that into consideration. They look at his goal tally and think he is not doing well but he has been terrific for us."

Nevertheless, after scoring nine times in his first six league games of the season, Alex Ferguson is hoping Rooney "goes on a spurt" over the congested festive programme as United approach the New Year's Day deadline their manager uses as the marker for how they will be challenging for the Premier League title in May.

He will hope for a favour from old rivals Chelsea, who meet leaders Manchester City at Stamford Bridge tonight.

However, after the disastrous European experience in midweek, Ferguson will be pleasantly surprised at the ease with which his side brought some stability back to the season.

It gave him the opportunity of returning to the defence of his young players, heavily criticised by Roy Keane, among others, in his assessment of the defeat in Switzerland.

"I don't understand people doubting these players," said Ferguson.

"(Danny) Welbeck, (Chris) Smalling and (Phil) Jones have played for their country.

"If they are not that good, why are England playing them?

"They are fantastic young players. They will be the foundation of our club for years."

It expanded on a comment Ferguson made in his programme notes about criticism "from people we thought perhaps were on our side".

"Though we may gnash our teeth, there is no use wailing about it."

Instead, Ferguson is trusting his depleted squad to drag United out of their disappointment, which will only truly be rammed home on Friday, when the draws for both the Champions League they are no longer part of, and the Europa League, which they are, will be made.

"It has been hard," said Portugal winger Nani, who, like Rooney, scored twice against Wolves -- his first goals since September too.

"Normally we go to the final of the Champions League.

"We used to pass easily through the group. This time was a bit disappointing.

"No-one expected to go to the Europa League. But this is life. We are still alive.

"We still have the opportunity to play. Now we just have to do our best to win whatever competition we can."

With so many players out injured, Ferguson needs the winger to maintain his high standards.


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