Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has revealed that Wayne Rooney being dropped has sparked the England striker back into top form.
Rooney was omitted from the United lineup in the 2-0 defeat to Stoke City on Boxing Day, but has since scored five goals in four games since the turn of the year.
Smalling believes that time away from the lineup helped Rooney, and he’s hopeful that the club captain can maintain his current form in order to fire the Red Devils back up the Premier League table.
“I think so,” he told reporters when asked whether dropping Rooney had made a difference, as noted by ESPN FC. “It was a busy Christmas period, but since he has missed that game and come back in he has shown he is a top-class performer.
“I think it can refresh you and spur you on a bit more to prove to everyone just how good you are, and people don’t forget that.
“I think, given his career as a striker, you go through periods where you don’t score. But the best ones are the ones that come back and get on another run, and Wazza [Rooney] has shown that throughout his career. It’s good to see he is back among the goals.”
Rooney produced a match-winning goal at Anfield against Liverpool on Sunday, with Louis van Gaal insisting that the club can still win the title this season.
The Red Devils remain seven points adrift of joint-leaders Arsenal and Leicester City, although the Gunners face a tough home game against Chelsea on Sunday.
As a result, the race is certainly not yet over for United, but they will need to improve their overall form in order to emerge as legitimate contenders in the final 16 games of the campaign as Van Gaal continues to attempt to silence his critics.