Thursday 20 September 2018

LVG: Rooney can spark our season

Wayne Rooney. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters
Wayne Rooney. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters

Louis van Gaal is counting on Wayne Rooney to give Manchester United an extra spark as the season comes to a close.

What had long looked like being another forgettable season in the post-Alex Ferguson era could yet end with a flourish.

A first FA Cup in 12 years remains within reach if they can navigate their way through Wednesday's quarter-final replay at West Ham, while securing a third-straight league victory tomorrow would bolster their chances of Champions League qualification.

Rooney will again be unavailable for this weekend's mouth-watering clash at Tottenham, but the United captain is edging closer to a return and will turn out for the under-21s against Middlesbrough on Monday.

The 30-year-old's return from a knee injury sustained nearly two months ago will be a timely boost and one which Van Gaal hopes can help the side end the campaign with a flourish.

"We are communicating every day with each other," the Dutchman said of Rooney. "He knows also my philosophy. Everybody knows that.

"We communicate every day with him and I communicate with the doctor, with the player and then we make a game plan."

Asked if Rooney can provide an extra spark in the final weeks of the season, Van Gaal said: "I hope so! I hope so. I am counting on him.

"I have said that to him already, but you have to be fit in the first place. Secondly, I have to compare him with the players who have played."

Van Gaal says Rooney's work-rate makes him the "easiest player for a manager" and his performances in his first two training sessions since returning from injury have impressed.

"I cannot say that (it will take time for him to reach top form) because when I saw him training yesterday, for example, he scored a goal," Van Gaal said.

"Let's wait. He plays 60 minutes at a lower level and maybe he can play against West Ham United, you never know."

Harry Kane has been linked with a move to Old Trafford and Van Gaal is wary of the threat he poses tomorrow, not that he is taking the rest of Mauricio Pochettino's side lightly.

"Kane is of course a very good striker but he hasn't scored yet against us," he said with a smile. "I cannot remember that he scored.

"When I say that, then I am challenging him also, so it's not so smart of me to say that.

"But we are never defending one player. We defend like a team and we defend the attack of Tottenham Hotspur because we have analysed them.

"Of course Kane is very important but (Christian) Eriksen is also very important and Dele Alli is also very important.

"I can start with, for example, (Hugo) Lloris because he makes very quick set-plays and also (Toby) Alderweireld has a very good pass, so it's the team you have to solve and not only Harry Kane."

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