Rooney says beating Villa bigger than Liverpool; compliments Carrick

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney has stressed that his side's victory at Liverpool in the last round of Premier League matches will count for nothing if they fail to beat Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Saturday.

United opened up a five-point gap on fifth placed Liverpool in the race for a top four finish with their 2-1 win at Anfield, but Rooney has warned the battle for a place in next season's Champions League is still very much up of grabs.

When asked by reporters whether triumph over Liverpool was a crucial turning point in the top four race, Rooney offered this response: "That means nothing if we don't beat Aston Villa on Saturday. Obviously Arsenal play Liverpool as well on Saturday, so if we can get the win against Villa that will be an even better result than Liverpool was for us.

"There are still eight games left. We are in a good position at the minute so it's in our own hands, so have to make sure we do it."

Rooney went on to offer fresh praise for Michael Carrick, after he claimed his United teammate was 'the best player of the pitch' in England's 1-1 draw with Italy on Tuesday in Turin.

It was put to Rooney that Carrick is something of an underrated performer by fans and the media, with the United skipper quick to insist the midfielder is respected in the United dressing room.

"I think he is a fantastic player," Rooney added. "He has been a big reason why, at United, we have won so many trophies over the last few years. So from myself and his teammates, he has not been underestimated."