Mata backs under-fire Rooney


Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney has been backed to remain a key player for club and country by team-mate Juan Mata.

Despite becoming England leading goalscorer this season and moving joint second in United's scoring charts, some of Rooney's club displays this term have led to criticism and calls for him to be dropped by Roy Hodgson.

As England prepare to face Spain in a friendly on Friday, which Rooney will be rested for, Mata called for the 30-year-old to be given more respect for his achievements.

"When we speak about Wayne we're speaking about the captain of England and my team Manchester United," the Spain international said.

"He's a very important player. He's scored more goals than anyone in the English national team and at United.

"I know he can play in different positions. At the end it's Roy Hodgson or Louis van Gaal who decides, but obviously if he's close to the box he will score more.

"I feel very proud to play alongside him in my team and it will be very difficult to face him."

Rooney's displays have led to suggestions his place could be under threat ahead of Euro 2016, the England skipper acknowledging this week he faces a "huge challenge" to keep his place.

With Hodgson set to field an experimental side in Alicante on Friday, Mata feels England have the quality to be a success in France next year.

"This team of England has a great squad and above all confidence," he added.

"I speak with Wayne day to day in Manchester and I see him very happy with the youth, ambition and I think they have the capacity to win a trophy.

"It's a great test for us because I consider them a big rival to win the Euros."