Football: Van Gaal defends spluttering Rooney

SOUTHAMPTON, United Kingdom - Louis van Gaal refuses to accept that Wayne Rooney is in a scoring slump despite the Manchester United captain going into Sunday's visit to Southampton without a Premier League goal in over five months.

Rooney, who recently became England's leading all-time international goalscorer, has not hit the net in a Premier League game for United since the first weekend in April, although his club manager prefers to focus on the hat-trick the striker scored in the Champions League at Bruges last month rather than his 10-game domestic barren spell.

"He scored against Bruges. He scored," said van Gaal. "It doesn't matter if it's the Premier League or the Champions League. I was very happy when we scored more goals.

"It does not matter to me who is scoring. But we have to score more. When you are so dominant as we are, in all the matches, we have to win these games.

"He has a range of scoring goals. You can count all the goals he's made. In my memory, Rooney has scored a lot.

"He's nearly the record holder in the Premier League so I hope he will beat that record but I have to wait and see, like you do." Such a quest is still some distance off, Rooney's 185 career Premier League goals placing him two behind second placed Andy Cole and way behind all-time leading scorer Alan Shearer and his 260.

Rooney, 29, needs to score 76 times to overtake Shearer and, bearing in mind that the past five seasons in total have seen the United man score "only" 79 goals, van Gaal may be disappointed in his wish.

Rooney missed United's victory over Liverpool last weekend with a hamstring injury, but looks certain to return against a Southampton side who van Gaal expects, like defending champions Chelsea, to improve drastically as the season progresses.

"Wayne is back, it was a minor injury and we didn't want to take risks," said van Gaal. "But he has had training and treatment and I think he can start.

"Southampton have a very good team, not worse than last year, but they started very badly. It's the same with Chelsea, but they shall come back, as we did last year. I don't think is a normal position for them."


Meanwhile, broken leg victim Luke Shaw is due to fly back to Manchester this weekend where he will undergo a minor surgical procedure before being allowed home.

Van Gaal has noted the effect that the horrendous injury had on Shaw's team mates in the United dressing room and hopes it may have a galvanising effect on them.

"There was a question about the mental effect of such an injury and I said I cannot prove that, I cannot see in the heads of the players," he said.

"But I have now read in some papers that some players said it had an influence. Maybe it will have a positive influence in the dressing room. When you see us playing and the spirit we have I don't have any doubts" Ronald Koeman has found life more difficult in his second season in charge of Southampton than he did in his first, with his team having won just one of their opening five Premier League games while their Europa League campaign is already over.

Part of the reason for the slow start was the departure of key players from the club, including Morgan Schneiderlin who moved to Old Trafford 12 months after he first attempted to engineer a move to Tottenham.

Koeman, though, insists the home supporters should bear no hard feelings towards the France international.

"I hope the reaction to him is a positive one," Koeman said. "He did everything for the club, he had a great time in Southampton, he was ready for the next step.

"I think we have to receive the player like we normally do with other players."