In the aftermath of Manchester United’s 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool, club legend and record goalscorer Wayne Rooney has pointed the finger at the players, saying effort levels do not meet the club’s standards.
United were humiliated by their rivals at Old Trafford on Sunday, adding to the strain on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was already under fire due to his team’s dismal form.
Rooney, a former teammate of Solskjaer’s, is presently the manager of Derby County, but he provided his thoughts on United’s dilemma ahead of Saturday’s match against Tottenham.
“There is a big responsibility on those players. They are world-class players, international players and a club like United need more,” Rooney said. “Those players need to be hurt, need to feel when you lose games how much it hurts you.
“I’m seeing too many players not willing to run back, not willing to defend, and not willing to put everything on the line for that club and that’s not acceptable.”
United’s decision-makers are considering alternatives to Solskjaer as they ponder a managerial change, with Antonio Conte being heavily linked as a possible replacement in the days after the Liverpool setback.
Before the international break, United will play three key games, including a trip to Atalanta and a derby against Manchester City, which will follow Saturday’s trip to Spurs. United could be forced to make a decision if they have poor performance or lose one of the three games.
Rooney, on the other hand, believes that the players, not the manager, should bear the blame. He said: “The players have to question themselves. It’s too easy for the manager to take all the stick when those players are being paid a lot of money to do the job and I don’t think they’re doing it well enough.
“United are going through a difficult period – a difficult couple of weeks. The Liverpool game wasn’t easy to watch but that’s football.
“Liverpool are a fantastic team, similar to United in world-class players, with probably the best player in the world at the minute in Mo Salah – but the big difference is they are working off the ball. That’s the only difference.
“Obviously there’s pressure on Ole – everyone can see that. But I know Ole and he’s a fighter. He’ll keep doing the right things, believing in what he believes in, and trying to get more out of those players.”
On the possibility of a management change at United, Rooney added: “Whatever decision the club makes, they’ll feel it’s the right decision. What I know is you can’t just bow down to what the press want or what the fans want. I’m sure United have a plan in place whether that’s with or without Ole.
“They will come out and speak on that or make decisions on that at the right time, I’m sure. They are very educated people at the top of the club. I’m sure they will be looking at everything to see how they move forward in the near future, whether that’s with Ole or without.”
It is possible to conclude that as a manager himself, Rooney’s perspective is coloured. Yet, he has experienced both sides of the subject, as a player and as a manager, and can be said to be speaking from experience. Therefore, is it something for the management to consider: address player commitment with as much determination as they are doing the manager position?