Wayne Rooney sees bigger role for David De Gea and deeper role for himself at Manchester United

Falling back in the midfield will lengthen his career as the striker says he is confident his experience as a Manchester United veteran will rub off on other players.
Rooney is confident his experience as a Manchester United veteran will rub off on other players. Alex Livesey / Getty Images
Rooney is confident his experience as a Manchester United veteran will rub off on other players. Alex Livesey / Getty Images

MANCHESTER // Wayne Rooney has urged Manchester United to have the conviction that they can cap their renaissance under Louis van Gaal by challenging to regain the title.

United, who finished seventh last season, slipped to 10th place following November’s Manchester derby defeat, but a run of six successive wins has propelled them up to third.

And while United’s goal this season was a top-four finish, captain Rooney is eyeing the possibility of his sixth winner’s medal in the Premier League.

“We have to believe we can win the title,” he said. “We are eight points behind [leaders Chelsea] and coming into a busy period. If we can win our games and the others have one bad result, then there is nothing there.”

United’s dressing rooms have tended to be staffed by serial winners, but the exodus of some of Alex Ferguson’s side, plus the signings of seven players in 2014 and the introduction of a younger group from the youth team, means Rooney is one of comparatively few with the experience of lifting trophies at Old Trafford.

“We have been here before, but we have a lot of new players and this is where the experience of myself, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher can rub off on the other players,” he said.

Van Gaal only claimed 13 points from his first 10 games, but Rooney said the United team appreciate his blunt approach and different methods.

“We all bought into his ways,” he said. “He is a great manager. He is great with the players. He is honest with the players who are playing and those who aren’t, which is great.”

United’s sixth straight win, against Liverpool on Sunday, featured a man-of-the-match performance from goalkeeper David de Gea, prompting Rooney to declare him the best on the planet.

“David was the same last season,” he said. “In my eyes, he is the best keeper in the world. The performances he has shown for us have been fantastic. He is not as tall as some other keepers, but his spring and reach is really long.”

De Gea joined United in 2011 as a 20-year-old replacement for the veteran Edwin van Sar, 40, and Ferguson dropped the young Spaniard during difficult periods.

Rooney added: “He came through a tough patch early on in his career here and he is starting to prove what a top keeper he is. To play in goal at Manchester United at 20 is difficult, especially trying to replace Edwin van der Sar, who was a fantastic keeper.”

Rooney was a scorer against Liverpool, despite starting in midfield, and he believes his future could lie in a deeper role.

“You see top players like Michael Owen retire. He was one of the world’s best players, but I don’t think he could drop back into midfield, so once his pace had gone through injuries that was kind of the end,” he said.

“But I feel I can drop back, and I am sure it will give me an extra few years at the end of my career.”

sports@thenational.ae

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Published: December 16, 2014 04:00 AM

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