Monday 18 December 2017

Rooney calls on defence to shackle confident Chelsea

Jason Burt

Twenty-nine goals scored in 12 matches this season for Manchester United is an exciting return -- not least when, like Wayne Rooney, you are a vital part of that attacking machine. But it is the 15 conceded and just three clean sheets that is concerning the United striker as he heads for the Premier League match away to Chelsea this afternoon.

Beyond that and United have fallen behind in eight of those dozen matches, and while they have managed to overturn that deficit on six of those occasions -- an admirable enough feat -- it is a task that Rooney acknowledged cannot continue.

"We don't want to be doing that and against the best teams it will be difficult to get those goals to win games," Rooney said. "It happened against Braga (in the Champions League in midweek) and we did well to get back into the game and win it, but you can't afford to be going one or two goals down against Chelsea away -- although we did last season. We went 3-0 down before we drew (Rooney scored two penalties before Hernandez's equaliser). But we can't do that again."

Chelsea are now a different proposition. Big-money signings such as Eden Hazard and Oscar have added to the "confidence" that Rooney said he sensed the club now possessed after Champions League glory.

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"It's a great start and it's clear having won the Champions League last season it has given them a lot more confidence, they have brought a lot of new players in and added more speed to the team," Rooney said of a side who have won seven and drawn one league match this season.

"Juan Mata is a great player and Hazard has settled in really well in his first season, so I think those two along with (Fernando) Torres are the three biggest threats. Torres is still a threat, of course. I don't think he gets the credit he deserves because he works hard for the team.

Sometimes the goals go in for him, other times they don't, but he's always trying."

Rooney's role today may depend on how Alex Ferguson wants to approach the fixture -- putting the 27-year-old back into midfield is an option. "I'm happy to play where the manager wants to play me. We have a lot of top strikers and midfielders so if the manager wants to play me in midfield or as a striker I'm happy to do that."

Ferguson could do with some more central defenders. A defensive crisis has struck -- again -- with Nemanja Vidic injured long-term and neither Phil Jones nor Chris Smalling having made an appearance this season as they work towards fitness.

So far, the alternative permutations attempted by Ferguson have not been consistent -- Patrice Evra's form is deteriorating and Michael Carrick has made an unconvincing makeshift centre-half.

Ryan Giggs is also concerned by defensive vulnerability. "We've been scoring goals and conceding them," he said. "But we know the secret of winning leagues and trophies is to win games 1-0.

"On the one hand the lads have showed great character coming back in games and great quality with the goals scored. But you can't go through a season giving teams one or two-goal leads. We know it's something we've got to address -- and we will," Giggs said.

Telegraph

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