Sunday 21 January 2018

Man United still on long road back to top, insists Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney celebrates as Manchester United run riot against their city rivals at Old Trafford on Sunday
Wayne Rooney celebrates as Manchester United run riot against their city rivals at Old Trafford on Sunday

Mark Ogden

Wayne Rooney has claimed that Manchester United targeted Manchester City's work-shy midfielders to win the derby at Old Trafford on Sunday.

United moved to within one point of second-placed Arsenal by securing a sixth successive Premier League win against the faltering champions - a victory which ended a four-game losing sequence against their neighbours.

Despite falling a goal behind inside 10 minutes, United overturned the deficit to win 4-2 after United boss Louis van Gaal urged his players to heap the pressure on City's much-criticised midfield of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho.

"We know some City players are not the best at tracking back and defending and tracking runners and we felt we could make them pay for that and we did," Rooney said. "We have got players who can score goals from midfield and, to be honest, we felt that was going to win us the game and it was proved to be."


Despite the lift of beating City, Rooney insisted that it was too soon to talk of the club being back to their previous standing, claiming that the team are still not where they expect to be.

"We are still a work in progress and we are still learning," he said.

"It is great how things are going and the performances we are putting in, but it has to continue. We said earlier in the season that we were working on things and it was going to take time. It is starting to show now with the training we have been putting in. We have been working really hard.

"Each game is different and we have been training for each game in a different way, depending on how the opposition plays. There is no detail left unturned and we have been prepared really well.

"Last season was a tough one for us and we had to overcome that and there was also new players coming in, so we knew it would take time. It is starting to pay off now because we are starting to show what we can do, but we have to continue that to the end of the season and finish as high up as we can and take that into next year."

United travel to Chelsea on Saturday with Jose Mourinho's team protecting the only remaining unbeaten home record in the Premier League this season.

But having ended losing sequences against the likes of City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur this term, Rooney insisted that United would travel to Stamford Bridge believing they can upset the leaders.

"We are confident going to Chelsea," Rooney said. "We are in a good run of form and have beaten some good teams. It is a big test for us at Chelsea because they are top of the league and it is always tough at Stamford Bridge.

"They are in a very commanding position, but there is more space in the bigger games because those kinds of teams like to attack. We felt against City we could capitalise on it. We have found it tougher when teams have sat back and defended."

Rooney, meanwhile, has paid tribute to the United midfielder Marouane Fellaini for his unexpected rise to prominence this season.

"The Belgian took his goal tally to six for the campaign with a header against City and, after being booed by United fans at the start of the season, left the pitch to a standing ovation on Sunday following his recent impressive displays.

"Last year was awful for him, but in fairness, he kept his head down, worked hard and come through that tough period," Rooney said. "He is showing now what he did at Everton and why Manchester United bought him. He is a quality player.

"It was tough for him last year, but he had the whole team's support. We knew he was working hard and it wasn't just him struggling last season - a lot of us were.

"He was the one who took most of the blame for it and it was hard for him, but thankfully the manager has shown faith in him. He is big and he is strong and always a goal threat which he is showing now. He is awkward to mark. It is great for him and we hope it continues."

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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