Wayne Rooney has offered his support to Jose Mourinho during a tough period for Manchester United, with underperforming players told to “stand up” and shoulder more responsibility.
The 2018-19 campaign has been a testing one at Old Trafford thus far, with as many headlines being made off the field as on it.
Rumours of divides within the Red Devils camp refuse to go away, with leading players such as Paul Pogba reported to have suffered a breakdown in their working relationship with their under-fire boss .
Pressure has built on Mourinho as a result, with the Portuguese now having to fend off exit talk , but Rooney feels the man in charge has become “an easy target” for those refusing to question an inconsistent squad.
United’s all-time leading goalscorer told reporters after his latest outing for MLS side D.C. United: “It’s tough [at Old Trafford], it has been a tough situation.
“The players, the manager, it has been a tough start to the season.
“I know Jose is getting a load of stick but I said a few weeks ago, the players have to stand up. They have to be counted and they have to be better. The manager can do so much but then it is down to the players on the pitch to produce and probably collectively.
“It [the poor run of form] is a bit of everything coming together but Jose is an easy target. Some of the players have to be better.
“I said the same thing when Louis van Gaal was there. He took a lot of stick but behind closed doors I said to the players, ‘We have to be doing better’.
“Personally I think he [Van Gaal] set us up brilliantly the way but we didn’t produce on the pitch so I am sure that is getting said behind the scenes.”
United returned to winning ways last time out, as they recovered from two goals down to claim a dramatic 3-2 victory over Newcastle.
That success halted a four-game winless run, but the Red Devils remain eighth in the Premier League table with 13 points collected from eight games.
They are already seven adrift of the title-chasing pack and have testing games to come at home and abroad after the international break against Chelsea and Juventus.
Quizzed as to why Mourinho’s men have found the going so tough this term, Rooney said: “It’s a young team, different pressure, quite a lot of those players maybe haven’t faced this before and they maybe haven’t got the senior players which I had there as a young player to help in those difficult moments. There are not enough of them to help you through it.”