Wayne Rooney has launched a stern defence of under fire Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, claiming the former Chelsea manager has been made a scapegoat for the under-performing Red Devils.
Rooney, who is now starring for American side DC United in Major League Soccer, believes it is time for the United players to stand up and be counted as they attempt to get their season back on track after the 3-2 win over Newcastle.
"The manager can do so much but then it is down to the players on the pitch to produce. Probably collectively it is a bit of everything coming together, but Jose is an easy target," the former Old Trafford skipper said, as quoted by the Mirror.
He added: "It’s been a tough situation. For the players and the manager, it has been a tough start to the season.
“I know Jose is getting a load of stick but the players have to stand up. They have to be counted and they have to be better.”
Rooney, who spent 13 years at the Theatre of Dreams, enjoyed many glory days under legendary Scot manager Sir Alex Ferguson, but admits that United's currents struggles have similarities to those of the Louis van Gaal era.
He said: "I said the same thing when Louis van Gaal was there. He took a lot of stick but behind close doors I said to the players we have be doing better.
“Personally I think he set us up brilliantly, but we didn’t produce on the pitch. So I am sure that is getting said behind the scenes now.”
Consequently, Rooney had sympathy for current United boss Mourinho, adding: "It's a young team, and it's a different pressure.
“Quite a lot of those players maybe haven’t faced this before and they haven’t got the senior players, which I had there as a young player, to help in those difficult moments.
“There are not enough of them to help you through it.”