Rooney's form key for boss Van Gaal

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (left) in action with Derby's Richard Keogh.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (left) in action with Derby's Richard Keogh. PHOTO: REUTERS

Captain's scoring streak a factor as United seek another win against underdogs Stoke

LONDON • Wayne Rooney can help ease the pressure on beleaguered Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal and move closer to Bobby Charlton's club scoring record if he maintains his hot streak against Stoke City in the Premier League today.

United forgot their league woes on Friday when they won 3-1 at Championship side Derby County in the FA Cup with Rooney's superb curling shot taking his tally to six in six games and 243 for the club, six behind Charlton.

Van Gaal's team return to league action for the first time since losing 0-1 at home to Southampton, lying fifth in the table on 37 points - 10 adrift of leaders Leicester City and five away from the top four.

The spotlight will be on van Gaal and Rooney is hoping he can take the heat off his boss when they face a Stoke side managed by former United striker Mark Hughes.

Stoke have lost all seven Premier League matches they have played at Old Trafford and have not won there for almost 40 years.

Rooney overtook Charlton's record of 49 goals for England this season and he told the United website he could not help but have one eye on the club record now.

"Of course, I'm well aware of it," he said. "Like the England record, when it was getting closer, it was coming up every week, so I'm sure it will now."

The United star said it was unfair to lay all the blame for the team's struggles on the manager.

"The players have to take a lot of responsibility for performances and results," he said. "We have to stand up and take criticism when it's there."

United's injury problems continue in the full-back positions for the visit of Stoke, with Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw all long-term absentees with no set return dates.

Stoke know they can move to within a single point of fifth-place United if they win and can consider themselves part of the most open race for the European qualification slots in decades.

But they have injury problems of their own, with defender Marc Wilson suffering a knee injury that could keep him out for three months in Saturday's 1-0 FA Cup fourth-round defeat at Crystal Palace.

"We're going to have a good go if we can, but a lot of clubs will be in there - Palace, West Ham, plus the usual suspects," said Hughes.

"It's a big game on Tuesday, obviously. We can affect them and help ourselves so we'll try to do that.

"I think everyone's interest and focus on the league is as high as it's ever been just because of the different teams that are getting involved.

"Obviously the stand-out team is Leicester by virtue of what they are doing, but there are a lot of other teams around them - and we'd like to include ourselves in that - who are doing okay and shaking things up a bit."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MANCHESTER UNITED V STOKE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'Rooney's form key for boss Van Gaal'. Print Edition | Subscribe