Wayne Rooney believes Memphis’s first Barclays Premier League goal – scored on the stroke of half-time – ‘was massive’ in helping Manchester United secure all three points in Saturday’s 3-0 win against Sunderland.
Rooney doubled the lead by opening his league account for 2015/16 just after the break before Juan Mata drilled home in injury time to seal the victory as the Reds moved to the top of the table.
However, the captain admitted that United found the first half difficult, telling MUTV: “It was tough. We knew that from last season and Newcastle earlier in the season; they make it difficult, put bodies behind the ball and defend with their lives. They’re trying to stay in the league.
“Memphis’s goal before half-time was a massive goal for us,” added Rooney. “If we didn’t get that, Sunderland had something to fight for and something to hold on to. It gave us a little bit more space in the second half and we played some good stuff and created some chances. In the end it was quite comfortable and a good win.”
Rooney knocked home Anthony Martial’s cross in the first minute of the second half to score in England’s top flight for the first time this season. “I wasn’t worried. It’s my fifth goal of the season for United and I’ve scored for England so it was just about getting off the mark in the league. Hopefully everyone will concentrate on me playing my football now and I’ll enjoy it.”
The captain was also full of praise for his provider after Martial’s ‘incredible’ start to life at United. “He’s been incredible. He’s a young lad, we have to remember that. I think he’ll be a big player for us this season and in the future but we need to let him enjoy his football and I’m sure he’ll have magic moments for us.”
Rooney also declared the United players are enjoying their football at the moment: “We know it’s a massive season for us, with being back in Europe as well, and after the Newcastle result it was always going to be edgy.
“But we’ve got over the Newcastle and Swansea games now and we’re playing some good stuff and creating some good chances. You can see the smiles on the lads’ faces so we’re enjoying it. Hopefully the form continues and we carry on picking up points.”
United went top for the first time under Louis van Gaal and Rooney said: “That’s what we’re all playing for, being number one at the end of the season, and it’s nice to be there now. But there’s a long way to go, it’s still early days and we have to keep working hard to make sure we can stay there or finish there at the end of the season.”