Wayne Rooney has challenged the likes of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku to prove that they are “big characters” for Manchester United and prevent the club’s season from becoming “impossible”.
The Red Devils have endured a testing 2018-19 campaign to this point, with Jose Mourinho’s side currently sat eighth in the Premier League table.
Too many players are considered to have underachieved, with United relying on individual form rather than collective harmony to deliver positive results.
Rooney believes it is now up to senior figures within the squad to step up and deliver, with Mourinho requiring big-money additions to help ease some of the pressure on his shoulders.
United’s all-time leading goalscorer told MUTV: “Jose can do what I know he’ll be doing – he’ll be working with the team and setting them up.
“But I think a lot of the responsibility has to go on the players' shoulders.
“They go on the pitch, they have to take that responsibility and they have to thrive on it. There will be tough moments throughout games, that is where the big characters have to lead by example on the pitch and almost drag the team through some games.
“You have got players like [Anthony] Martial, Pogba, [Marcus] Rashford and Lukaku. When games aren't going well, they need to be the players who can just get that goal which wins you the game and calms everyone down.”
Rooney believes the next few weeks could define United’s season, with there little margin for error as the Red Devils endeavour to force their way back into the battle for top-four finishes.
The Old Trafford icon said ahead of a return to domestic action for Mourinho’s men at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday: “The Christmas period in the Premier League always determines how well you’re going to do for the rest of the season.
“I think it’s an important four to six weeks coming up for United. You have these games and it’s important to take advantage of them. You can either fall away, which would make it almost impossible to get to where you want to be, or you can build momentum and keep closing that gap.
“If you close it to a point where you are putting pressure on the leaders, it can make them look back and think 'oh, they are on a great run'.
“Hopefully United can do that and then we'll see where they go from there.”
Their December schedule will then see them tackle Valencia in European competition, while crucial Premier League meetings will be taken in against Southampton, Arsenal, Fulham, Liverpool, Cardiff, Huddersfield and Bournemouth.