Manchester United now face 'must-win game' against Sunderland following defeat to Swansea, says Wayne Rooney

The Red Devils slipped down the table after defeat in Wales

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The Independent Football

Wayne Rooney has warned Manchester United another slip-up could cost them a Champions League return.

United’s top-four hopes were dealt a blow on Saturday as Swansea City completed their first league double over them, inflicting just a second defeat in 20 games on Louis van Gaal’s men.

There are still 12 matches remaining for United to ensure the season’s minimum requirement is met, but their next seven Premier League games include fellow top-four hopefuls Tottenham and Liverpool, title chasers Manchester City and Chelsea, plus a trip to steadily improving Everton. Which means dropping points against Sunderland at Old Trafford on Saturday is not an option.

“We need to hit back next week. It is a must-win game,” said captain Rooney. “We have to bounce back from this quickly, go on another good run and try to keep us in a good position to finish in that top four.”

More attacking variety will be needed if that goal is to be achieved. For all Van Gaal’s insistence that United are not a long-ball team, the endless stream of punts up towards Marouane Fellaini suggested otherwise. Federico Fernandez and Ashley Williams eagerly dealt with the aerial threat, while Jack Cork was excellent in his committed marshalling of Fellaini. With that avenue closed, United created few clear sights of goal.

“I thought we dominated but maybe didn’t test the keeper enough up until they scored; that’s disappointing, given the play we had,” added Rooney. “It was one-way traffic and it felt like a matter of time. We were putting them under pressure but they did defend the box well, putting bodies in front of the ball. But this is a blow for us, coming away with no points having played like that.”

 

United’s goal was delightfully crafted. Luke Shaw was freed down the left, and Rooney and Angel Di Maria calmly teed up Ander Herrera to find the net. But their lead lasted less than two minutes, as Ki Sung-yueng beat Shaw to Jonjo Shelvey’s cross.

Shelvey would have a big hand in the winner with Bafetimbi Gomis, who was trying to get out of the way, flicking the midfielder’s fierce strike beyond David De Gea.

“I told the players that when you want to be remembered for something, when you get the chance it is worth fighting for,” said Swansea’s manager, Garry Monk. “Our fight now is for the next 12 games to make sure we are remembered for this season. That is the attitude and culture we need and it is for me to set it.

“Our best Premier League tally is 47 points; we want to get to 40 first and then get past that 47.” One more win will achieve the first target.

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