Wayne Rooney has revealed he was left devastated by Manchester United's decision to sack Louis van Gaal in 2016 and declared they would've been much stronger had he remained in charge.
After two seasons at Old Trafford, the Dutch manager was sacked by the Red Devils despite winning the FA Cup final and was swiftly replaced by Jose Mourinho.
While Mourinho would guide the club to second place in the 2017-18 Premier League season, Rooney is adamant that United sacked Van Gaal too soon as he paid tribute to the coach.
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"I was devastated when Louis was sacked. For me, it was an absolute joy to work with him," Rooney is quoted by The Mirror in an extract from a new book, LVG – The Manager and the Total Person.
"We should have kept him for a third season. We would have been so much stronger.
"I felt things were improving and players started to understand his vision. In those two years I learned more than under any other manager.
"This is why I will be forever grateful to him. Not just for making me captain, but also for all the trust and belief he had in me.
"We didn’t have the best team in the league anyway, but we could not afford to have 12 players injured.
"Our best XI was good enough to play in the top four, but once we got injuries we got in trouble because we did not have the same quality in the squad as in the years before.
"At the time it was good for me because I had decided that I wanted to become a manager. And working with Louis in that way was priceless in my opinion, because I could learn so much from him. I could not have wished for a better example.”
Van Gaal never returned to management after leaving Old Trafford and formally announced his retirement in early 2019 - not long after Mourinho himself left the Red Devils.
The now 68-year-old recently blamed Manchester United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward for his dismissal, describing the man as an 'evil genius'.
Rooney himself has now made his first steps into management, currently serving as a player and coach with Championship club Derby County.