McAuley insists Wayne Rooney still possesses star quality
Gareth McAuley believes Manchester United's record scorer Wayne Rooney deserves to be treated with more respect, rather than derided as a player past his best.
Rooney, at just 31, has been heavily linked with a move away from the Red Devils due to his inconsistent displays during the last couple of seasons and the fact boss Jose Mourinho does not view him as an ever-present in his team.
McAuley's West Brom tackle United at Old Trafford on Saturday and the Northern Ireland international admits if Rooney is in the home line-up, then he will be coming up against a top striker.
"I still think he's a quality player," says 37-year-old McAuley. "I think sometimes people look for scapegoats. And with Wayne being such a high profile player, he gets a lot of criticism.
"I feel a lot of it is probably unfair. I still think he has got a lot to offer at Manchester United.
"Whether he stays there or not is probably down to him, it's his decision."
The Baggies are enjoying a fine season in the Premier League and have already surpassed last term's points tally.
McAuley, who plays alongside Northern Ireland team-mates Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt at The Hawthorns, adds: "We're eighth in the league, in a good place and want to get over the 50 points mark.
"We are going to have to go to Old Trafford and face Chelsea at home to reach that milestone. They are big games but we can play with a bit of freedom because we are well over the 40 point mark which is what you usually need to get over to be clear of relegation."
Apart from a disappointing draw with Bournemouth recently, United have looked strong under Mourinho and won the League Cup at Wembley last month.
McAuley concedes: "Jose is a winner everywhere he has gone. They are a tough team to beat and starting to look again like the Chelsea team he used to be in charge of."