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Top-four fate in our hands - Rooney

Published 02/04/2015

Wayne Rooney says England are better than they showed in the first half in Turin
Wayne Rooney says England are better than they showed in the first half in Turin

Wayne Rooney knows Champions League qualification is Manchester United's to lose, making this weekend's clash with Aston Villa all the more important.

Louis van Gaal's side sit fourth in the Barclays Premier League standings as the season enters the closing stages, boasting a five-point cushion over the chasing pack after winning so impressively at Liverpool before the international break.

Juan Mata's brace earned United a deserved 2-1 triumph at Anfield to give them an impressive buffer over the Reds, as well as fellow top-four contenders Southampton and Tottenham.

However, Rooney is well aware how quickly things can change, admitting nothing less than victory will suffice when Aston Villa come to Aston Villa on Saturday.

"Yes it was (a six-pointer at Liverpool), but that means nothing if we don't beat Aston Villa on Saturday," the United captain said.

"Obviously Arsenal play Liverpool as well, so if we can get the win against Villa that will be an even better result than Liverpool was for us.

"I think there are still eight games left. We are in a good position at the minute so it's in our own hands, so have to make sure we do it."

Rooney and several of his United team-mates only returned home from international duty on Wednesday afternoon after a technical fault on the England team plane delayed their departure from Turin.

It meant an extra night in Italy, where it looked like they would be leaving after a night to forget as Graziano Pelle punished the Three Lions' poor first-half display.

However, Andros Townsend's wonder strike saw England secure a 1-1 draw following a much-improved performance after half-time, when Roy Hodgson's bold substitutions paid off - as did his decision to partner Rooney with full debutant Harry Kane.

The England skipper had spent the first half in midfield role as Hodgson tinkered with his side, although he is not allowing that experimentation to be an excuse.

"I think it's important in tournament football you might need that, so that's what we were doing," the 29-year-old said.

"We were trying a few different things out because you never know with injuries and suspensions in tournament football. The best time to do it is obviously in the friendlies.

"You could clearly see in the first half that it didn't work so I think the manager made good changes at the right time which helped us to get back into the game.

"Obviously I haven't played in midfield for a few weeks. Sometimes it is difficult to go from up front to midfield or from midfield to up front - sometimes it does take time.

"I had a few chances and could have scored, so I felt I played better when I went up front."

United team-mate Phil Jones was another to struggle away from his preferred position, looking lost at times at the base of the diamond.

He looked more assured when he dropped back into defence after Chris Smalling complained of feeling unwell and was replaced by Michael Carrick late in the opening period.

The 33-year-old had not played for England since October 2013 before these matches and Rooney loves having his club-mate around.

"I felt Michael Carrick was the best player on the pitch by a mile," he said.

"He gave us great composure, he slowed the game down when we needed to and started our attacks really well."

Asked if Carrick has been under-rated throughout his career, Rooney said: "Not from me and certainly not from Manchester United fans.

"I think he is a fantastic player. He has been a big reason why, at United, we have won so many trophies over the last few years. So from myself and his team-mates, he has not been under-estimated."

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