Manchester United can challenge for the league title after recovering from their worst start to a Premier League season and rediscovering the art of winning ugly, according to their captain Wayne Rooney.
The England striker scored as United beat bitter rivals Liverpool 3-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday (Monday NZ time) to make it six consecutive league victories.
The 20-times English champions are third in the table with 31 points from 16 games, eight adrift of leaders Chelsea, after new manager Louis van Gaal led United to their worst start to a season in the Premier League era.
Rooney thinks the team’s recent run, in which they have carved out victories at Arsenal and Southampton despite being outplayed for long periods, is reminiscent of the squad that were crowned champions two years ago.
“We have to believe we can win the title,” he said. “We are eight points behind and coming into a busy period. If we can win our games and the others have one bad result, then there is nothing there.
“We have to keep winning our games, hopefully get back to the top, and you never know. We won the league two years ago and we weren’t great in a lot of those games but we got the results.
“We have shown a great resilience this season. Some of the games haven’t gone the way we would like but we are winning them and that is a great quality to have.
“We have been here before but we have a lot of new players and this is where the experience of myself, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher can rub off on the other players,” he added.
Rooney pointed to the experience of Dutch manager Van Gaal in helping United reverse their fortunes and said the former Netherlands boss has “an aura” that gives confidence to the team.
“When things weren’t going great for us earlier on in the season, he knew what he was doing, he knew the form would come back and that we would win games,” Rooney said.
“There was no panic. He stayed calm because he has been through it all before.”
United visit Aston Villa on Saturday with a chance to close the gap on leaders Chelsea, who play on Monday.