Rooney 'out of form' as he closes in on Best's record
Published 15:19 16/04/12 By David McDonnell
Wayne Rooney has admitted his form has dipped, after being laid into by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Manchester United boss Ferguson hauled Rooney off during Sunday's 4-0 win over Aston Villa, even though his star striker was on a hat-trick at the time.
It was the second game in a row where Rooney has been subbed, following his 65th-minute withdrawal in United's 1-0 defeat to Wigan last Wednesday.
After taking him off against Villa, a minute after he had scored his second goal, Ferguson branded the England hitman "careless and casual".
Rooney accepted that blunt critcism and said he knows he must produce more between now and the end of the season.
"I was delighted with my goals but at times it wasn't good enough from myself," he said. "I was disappointed with that and I have to put that right.
"Obviously I'm happy with the goals, but the rest of my play wasn't great."
Rooney has 31 goals this season, just three short of his best-ever return, which he achieved in 2009-10.
But despite that goal glut, Ferguson said he expects more from the player, and his remarks showed that no member of his squad is immune from criticism, however important.
Although leaders United have a five-point lead over second-place City with four games left, Ferguson does not want to see any complacency from his players.
Despite his admission that he was below his best, Rooney hailed the character of his United team-mates in restoring their five-point lead after the setback at Wigan.
"We were disappointed with our performance against Wigan but this was a chance to get it out of our systems," said Rooney.
"We had to try and keep that distance of five points between us and City, so in that sense it was a big game for us and we fully deserved the win. Credit to the team for that."
Rooney is keen to break his own personal goals record for a season, but also needs only two more to overtake George Best and Dennis Viollet on United's list of all-time leading scorers.
Currently sixth, he will move up to fourth, behind Sir Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and Jack Rowley, if he notches twice more.
"It's the points that are important at this stage but if I can score goals
to get those points then I'll be delighted," said Rooney.
"Of course it would be great to surpass them [Best and Viollet]. It will be a great achievement which I'll be proud of. But I can't really look at that. If it happens, then great. Hopefully it will happen before the end of the season.
"I just have to keep myself focused on my game."
Rooney said United are delighted to be five points ahead of City with only his former club Everton to come before a potentially pivotal Manchester derby at Eastlands on April 30.
"A month, or six weeks, ago, if someone had said we'd be five points clear at this stage of the season we'd have been delighted," he said.
"Next week against Everton is a massive game. We need to get three points there, and then it'll make an interesting night at City."
Rooney also hailed the return of Paul Scholes as a key factor in United's push to the brink of a 20th league title this season.
Scholes came out of retirement in January, and Rooney said: "It's great to have him playing again.
"Everyone has seen his quality over the years and it's fantastic the way he keeps the ball for the team. He's a big, important player for us and hopefully he'll be here for a while."