Wayne Rooney Comments on Louis van Gaal, Champions League and More

Rory MarsdenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2016

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Louis van Gaal, manager of Manchester United shakes hands with Wayne Rooney of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Manchester United at Britannia Stadium on December 26, 2015 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
Dave Thompson/Getty Images

Wayne Rooney believes Manchester United's players have got off lightly for some of their poor performances this season, with manager Louis van Gaal receiving undue amounts of criticism. 

The Dutchman is under increasing pressure in his job following Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Sunderland, which has further reduced United's chances of qualifying for next season's Champions League, per Samuel Luckhurst in the Manchester Evening News.

However, Red Devils captain Rooney believes he and his team-mates have avoided much of the blame and need to bear some of the responsibility, per David Anderson in the Mirror:

It’s a very good group of players. At times it’s been frustrating for us as we’ve under-performed. And actually the manager has taken a lot of stick for some performances. It’s down to us, we’re players and we have to perform. 

At times this season we haven’t done that. In terms of that, we’ve probably got off quite lightly and the manager has taken a lot of it.

But we’re going on the pitch. We have to create chances and win games and we haven’t done that enough this season.

Despite the defeat to the Black Cats, United remain only six points back from the top four in the Premier League because Manchester City went on to lose 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

However, there are only 12 games left in the season and given United's current form—they have won just three of their last 13 Premier League matches—a Champions League spot next season seems unlikely.

Indeed, Van Gaal admitted after the Sunderland game that their best chance of qualifying for Europe's premier club competition next season is to win the Europa League, per the Mail on Sunday's Rob Draper.

And Rooney has indicated that the main aim for the rest of the season is to win a first trophy since 2013, with United also still in the FA Cup and the Europa League, per Anderson:

The important thing now, I feel, is to win trophies again this season. It’s been a few years since we won a trophy. This is more or less a new team so for ourselves, as a team, we need to win something. The fans want to see us win something again.

Obviously the Champions League is massive for this club and it was disappointing to go out of it. We’ll keep going in the league, keep trying. But our main aim has to be to make sure we can get in that top four. 

And then the Europa League, it would be great if we can win that. It’s not where we wanted to be at the start of the season. But it’s where we’ve found ourselves so why not go and try to win it.

Failure to qualify for the Champions League proved David Moyes' downfall as he was sacked back in 2014 the moment a top-four finish became an impossibility after a defeat to Everton.

Per Draper, the same fate will befall Van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho is primed to step into the Old Trafford top job.

Bleacher Report's Dean Jones believes the Portuguese boss could be a success with United, not least because he will be able to attract more high-profile signings to Manchester:

He also has a proven track record in the Premier League—having won it three times with Chelsea—not something that was true of Van Gaal despite his immense success elsewhere in Europe.

While Rooney, 30, is undoubtedly correct to direct some of the blame towards himself and his team-mates, the buck, as ever, must stop with the manager.

Van Gaal has been unable, thus far, to turn his squad of players into a consistent winning team, and he looks set to pay for it with his job.