Rooney ridiculed as United endures 325-minute goal drought
LONDON (AP) With two goals in 10 Premier League games, Wayne Rooney's struggles are not just a source of glee for opposing fans. Even the local police are ridiculing the Manchester United striker.
''Missing Person,'' Manchester police wrote on one of its Twitter accounts over the weekend. ''Wayne Rooney last seen in the Trafford area wearing a red shirt, any sightings please inform colleagues.''
The misfiring Rooney is emblematic of United's lack of goal threat through three consecutive drab 0-0 draws. Perhaps age is catching up with the 30-year-old captain, but he remains United's highest paid player.
''I can imagine because Wayne Rooney is a fantastic player, the expectation is much higher than another player in another club,'' United manager Louis van Gaal said. ''But you have to give players time to come back in a certain shape. That is what we are doing and I have confidence in this player.''
The only game when Rooney has truly thrived this season was against Bruges, scoring a hat trick in the Champions League playoffs. It should prove far tougher on Tuesday at Old Trafford against CSKA Moscow after Rooney had just two efforts on target in the Russian capital in last month's 1-1 draw. Anthony Martial scored United's goal that night and the team has failed to find the net in 325 minutes - and counting - since then.
No wonder the fans have taken to chanting ''We're Man United, we want to attack.''
''Now we have a bad period, because it's a bad period when you don't score - football is scoring goals,'' Van Gaal said. ''We have to improve that and we are busy with that and I hope that we shall score against CSKA Moscow.''
At Crystal Palace on Saturday, Rooney managed only one shot on goal.
''He gives more than only scoring goals,'' Van Gaal said. ''He is our captain. He is also an example for the whole team so he has more credits than any other player.''
It's tight in Group B. Wolfsburg has a two-point lead over United and CSKA, and PSV Eindhoven is a point further back in fourth place.
Here are some things to know about Tuesday's matches:
CSKA is the only team in Group B leading its domestic competition, nine points clear of neighbor Lokomotiv. Both Wolfsburg and PSV are third, and United is fourth.
CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky will be on the bench for the match in Manchester, despite earlier taking over as Russia coach.
Slutsky, who has led CSKA to two league titles and an unbeaten domestic league record this season, rescued Russia's qualifying campaign for next year's European Championship. Because of his success, Slutsky was told he would have to quit his job at CSKA if he wanted to stay as Russia coach for the 2018 World Cup.
But Russian soccer federation president Vitaly Mutko backed down, leaving Slutsky free to travel to Manchester, where CSKA won 2-1 at City last year.
Slutsky marked six years in charge last week - the longest unbroken tenure of any CSKA coach since the Stalin era.
Julian Draxler will be hoping to regain his starting spot for Wolfsburg against PSV.
Signed from Schalke as a replacement for Kevin de Bruyne, Draxler scored his first Bundesliga goal for Wolfsburg - but the midfielder had to come off the bench to clinch the 2-1 win at Leverkusen.
''Of course, no one is happy on the bench,'' Draxler said. ''But with such a deep roster you have to live with it.''
For the trip to the Netherlands, Wolfsburg will be without forward Max Kruse, who is still nursing a thigh injury. Defender Christian Traesch should be available after overcoming a similar complaint.