Wayne Rooney has admitted that his last two Manchester United performances have not been good enough. After serving a three-match domestic ban and missing all three England games so far this season, it was little surprise that Rooney should be off the pace in last week's Champions' League win over Celtic.
Much better was expected against Arsenal at the weekend but, again, the 20-year-old struggled. Eventually, to his own frustration and the astonishment of many United fans, a clearly unhappy looking Rooney was replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The former Everton striker said: "I am disappointed with my own form in the last two games. It has not been up to the standard I normally play. I am disappointed but will keep working hard and hopefully my game will come back."
Sir Alex Ferguson has no fears on that score but, like many of his players, the Scot felt Rooney suffered at the weekend as a direct result of the effort expended in beating Celtic in a titanic tussle. Rooney accepts there may be some truth in his manager's assessment, especially given his brief post-match chat with Paul Scholes, who had spent a similar amount of time on the sidelines.
"The Celtic game was quite tough," added Rooney. "It was a big game and there was a lot of pressure on us to win it. I spoke to Paul afterwards and we were both quite tired. Nevertheless, losing against Arsenal was a big blow. We have made a good start to the season and we wanted it to continue.
"Even a draw would not have been too bad but to lose in the last 10 minutes was devastating. We are still in front of the other title contenders but Sunday's game was one we could have won and we let ourselves down."
At least the United camp have a full week to recover before heading to Reading and their first competitive encounter with the Berkshire outfit at the Madejski Stadium. Ferguson will hope the brief lull in fixtures offers Nemanja Vidic, Alan Smith and Gabriel Heinze the opportunity to work on their match fitness.
Vidic, in particular, will fancy his chances of a recall given the recent problems which have surfaced in Rio Ferdinand's previously watertight partnership with Wes Brown. The Serbian's willingness to get stuck into the less glamorous parts of defending should help stabilise United's rearguard and Ferguson is looking to have both Vidic and Heinze back in his side.
"Some defenders would prefer to be known as football players but the guys who have a vocation for it, like Vidic and Heinze, take great pride in their work. They revel in it," Ferguson said. "They love defending. They see it as an honourable profession."Reuse content