United must improve without talismanic Rooney

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Manchester United assistant boss Mike Phelan has admitted the Red Devils must learn to win without Wayne Rooney.

Although United have lost matches with their 34-goal talisman in the side this season, the wheels have fallen off their domestic campaign since Rooney suffered an ankle injury during the Champions League first-leg defeat to Bayern Munich.

Phelan told the BBC: "Wayne Rooney is having an exceptional season. We can't get away from that. But this is Manchester United, we have a lot of other quality players in the squad.

"At times you are going to miss people. When that happens, others have to come to the front and show the calibre that brought them to the club in the first place."

With Rooney out, United failed to make any impression on Chelsea in their top-of-the-table duel at Old Trafford until it was far too late.

That defeat looked like being costly even before, again lacking Rooney, they failed to score at Blackburn on Sunday, a result that leaves them a point adrift of Chelsea, having played a game more.

The results have done nothing to dilute the impression of United being a one-man team, a situation Alan Shearer alluded to recently and a view the former England captain is certainly not alone in sharing.

And while Phelan does not subscribe to that view, Sir Alex Ferguson's number two does accept United have to be capable of operating without their main man. Not many did that on Sunday.

"It has not been the greatest couple of weeks," conceded Phelan. "The last three games have not gone the way that we wanted but you have to take these things on board and you have to carry on.

"The title is not in our hands now, which is disappointing because you always want control of situations. We have not got that. But it is not over yet. There are a lot of big games to be played.

"It is a funny season and hopefully we will still be in it at the end."

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Premier League
Manchester United
Wayne Rooney

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