Wayne Rooney's honesty during slow start praised by Man United boss

MANCHESTER -- Louis van Gaal has praised Wayne Rooney for saying that he played poorly against Aston Villa last week and feels the Manchester United captain's honest admission will help him return to top form.

Rooney has come under criticism in his slow start to the season and has failed to score in his last nine competitive appearances for the club, three of them in the current campaign.

The 29-year-old accepted he was nowhere near his best in last Friday's 1-0 win at Aston Villa and Van Gaal was pleased with Rooney's analysis of his own display.

"It starts with the player himself," he said in a news conference. "He has to admit he was bad and then he can improve. When you don't admit, you can't improve.

"It starts always with the player himself and when you are saying so publicly that you are so bad then you know you are very bad at that time. But I think it's fantastic that a player admits that."

Van Gaal thinks Rooney is a rarity in being willing to admit his shortcomings to the outside world, but he feels it also shows his belief he will soon be back on the scoresheet.

"It's also for me unbelievable because he is one of the few players saying such things because it can after a few weeks be a threat of the media again or pressure from the media again," he said.

"So he takes a risk I think, but he is very confident that he shall make the goals we expect from him and I am confident also."

Van Gaal has restored Rooney to the forward line after using him in midfield for much of last season and he remains convinced it is the right decision.

"He knows my standards, my philosophy, he knows what I want from a striker, how I want him to perform and he's confident he can perform that," he said.

"I think that also otherwise I would not put him in the striker's position. I have tried last year all the positions, because he is multifunctional. He can play in various positions. Now I think the best position is centre-forward and he agreed with that conclusion and his second position is No. 10."

Newcastle manager Steve McClaren also praised Rooney, saying the striker may not be fully appreciated until 10 years after he hangs up his boots.

However much you may criticise, when he is long gone and finished and you look back, he will be one of the greatest ever to play for England," said former England boss McClaren. "He may not be appreciated now, but he will be in 10 years' time. That is always the way of things -- and probably his best is still to come.

"People say he has never delivered on the big stage, but I have been involved with him with England. In Portugal in 2004, that was his tournament, only for him to pick up that injury. You wonder what might have happened. We thought we had a real chance with this boy.

"As for not delivering in tournaments, it is a team game and too often, the team has not delivered in major finals, so it is very difficult for him. It is the same thing levelled at [Lionel] Messi.

"Footballers are never appreciated at the time, but he will be in 10 years."