Despite struggling near the bottom end of the table, Sunderland saw off van Gaal’s Red Devils on Saturday, securing a 2-1 home victory to heap further woe on United.
Wahbi Khazri opened the scoring for the Black Cats when his long-range free kick evaded David De Gea, before Anthony Martial’s chipped finish was cancelled out by a De Gea own goal inside the last ten minutes.
The defeat leaves United fifth in the table, and a considerable six points behind rivals Manchester City who occupy fourth spot and the last Champions League qualifying position.
Indeed, United’s plight could have been worse had the Citizens not fallen to a 2-1 home defeat to title chases Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Speaking ahead of United’s Europa League match against Midtjylland on Thursday Rooney has spoken out in defence of under-pressure coach van Gaal, and insisted the players must take more of the blame for the club’s struggles.
” It’s a very good group of players. At times it has been frustrating for us as we’ve under-performed,” Rooney began, as per the Express.
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“And actually the manager has taken a lot of stick for some performances. It’s down to us, we’re the players and we have to perform.
“At times this season we haven’t done that. In terms of that we’ve probably got off lightly and the manager has taken a lot of it.
“But we’re going on the pitch. We have to create chances and win games and we haven’t done that enough this season.”
With Champions League qualification via the league looking increasingly less likely, it may be that the Red Devils’ best bet of securing a return to the continental high table is by winning the Europa League.