Monday 23 April 2018

Rooney: We'll challenge next season

Wayne Rooney wants to be challenging for the Premier League next year
Wayne Rooney wants to be challenging for the Premier League next year

Wayne Rooney insists Manchester United will mount a serious title challenge next season.

A difficult first season of the Louis van Gaal era ended with a somewhat underwhelming 0-0 draw at Hull on Sunday.

Despite a disappointing run of one win in their final six games, United achieved their aim of Champions League qualification - but Rooney is hungry for so much more.

The United skipper is used to challenging for titles and that is what he wants to be doing next season.

Van Gaal's team finished 17 points behind this year's winners Chelsea, but Rooney insists the gap between the two teams is capable of being bridged, so long as the club make the right moves in the transfer market.

"I believe we are (close)," the United captain told Sky Sports.

"You take the first 10 games and I think we had 13 points.

"When you consider from after that amount of games to where we've finished, we've probably got as many points after that as anyone else.

"I think we're close, there's no doubt about it. You can see in our performances, we're outplaying teams, dominating possession, and it's just that final thing of taking our chances.

"In the (defeat at) Chelsea, if I had scored that chance with my left foot then it could have been a completely different game and might have put them under a bit of pressure - it might have been a lot closer than it's finished.

"As a group of players, myself and the manager - we all believe we're close and I'm sure with a player or two in the summer we'll have a good chance of going for the title."

A quarter-final exit to Arsenal in the FA Cup - the one trophy he is yet to win - remains a sore point for Rooney.

But given the turbulent times at Old Trafford over the last two years, Rooney is reasonably satisfied with the season as a whole.

"There was a change of manager, coaches, and a lot of new players coming in - so realistically we knew it was going to be a tough ask for us to go and win the Premier League," the striker added.

"The least we wanted was a top-four finish because, after last season, for this football club it would've been a disaster if we didn't make the top four.

"It would have been nice to win some silverware - that's why the Arsenal defeat in the cup was so disappointing - but in terms of the Premier League the most vital thing for us was getting in the top four."

Phil Jones thinks United must start well next season if they are to challenge.

As Rooney pointed out, United had 13 points after their opening 10 matches. That cannot happen next year, Jones says.

"We need to start well next season, for definite," the defender said.

"We will go away and have a rest, recuperate, think about the season and how we have done, what we can improve on and we will come back ready to go again next season.

"If we could have picked up three points instead of one in places like Sunderland and Burnley, then you give yourself a better chance.

"But that is the way the season has gone and we are reasonably satisfied."

Van Gaal heads to the Algarve this week for a much-needed break.

He has already started planning for next season. He held meetings with the players he wants out of the club over the weekend.

One of them was Radamel Falcao, who has been told he can return to Monaco after scoring just four goals during his loan spell at Old Trafford.

United are desperate to keep David de Gea away from Real Madrid, but should he leave, Victor Valdes did his chances of replacing his compatriot no harm on Sunday.

"He was terrific," Jones added. "He pulled off some wonderful saves. He is a great goalkeeper. He has very good English and he is good at communicating."

Press Association

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