Wayne Rooney feels the next few weeks could define how successful the season will be for Manchester United.
United have 10 games to play in all competitions before the end of this calendar year, including two more Champions League matches and key Premier League clashes with Arsenal at home and Liverpool away.
The club's former captain Rooney, who will make his final appearance for England tonight (Thursday), believes the period after the current international break will set the tone for the remainder of the Reds' campaign.
“The Christmas period in the Premier League always determines how well you’re going to do for the rest of the season,
“ said Rooney, in an exclusive interview with MUTV presenter Stewart Gardner.
"I think it’s an important four to six weeks coming up for United. You have these games and it’s important to take advantage of them. You can either fall away, which would make it almost impossible to get to where you want to be, or you can build momentum and keep closing that gap.
“If you close it to a point where you are putting pressure on the leaders, it can make them look back and think 'oh, they are on a great run'.
“Hopefully United can do that and then we'll see where they go from there.”
‘THE PLAYERS MUST THRIVE ON THE RESPONSIBILITY’
Rooney worked under Jose Mourinho for two seasons at United before rejoining his boyhood club Everton in the summer of 2017, prior to his move across the pond to DC United.
Our former captain reiterated his belief that Jose is a winner but also feels the players must take their fair share of responsibility when they step onto the pitch.
“Jose can do what I know he’ll be doing – he’ll be working with the team and setting them up,
“ said Wayne. ”But I think a lot of the responsibility has to go on the players' shoulders.
“They go on the pitch, they have to take that responsibility and they have to thrive on it. There will be tough moments throughout games, that is where the big characters have to lead by example on the pitch and almost drag the team through some games.
“You have got players like [Anthony] Martial, [Paul] Pogba, [Marcus] Rashford and [Romelu] Lukaku. When games aren't going well, they need to be the players who can just get that goal which wins you the game and calms everyone down.”
The Reds have shown a strength of character to stage stirring comebacks to beat Newcastle United, Bournemouth and Juventus in recent weeks – something Rooney feels is engrained into the club’s fabric.
“I think the spirit is obviously a big part of United’s DNA,” he said.
“How many times have you seen us come back and win with last-minute goals? I don't think that is being questioned.”
After officially retiring from international duty in August 2017, Rooney is set to make his 120th and final appearance for England this evening, in a friendly against USA at Wembley Stadium.
The Football Association has called the match ‘The Wayne Rooney Foundation International’ in support of the forward’s charitable interests, and to honour his record-breaking career.
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