Ander Herrera still regards Wayne Rooney as one of the best players on the planet despite his indifferent form this season.
Rooney’s 79th-minute header gave United a 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday night and moved him up to second alongside Denis Law in the club’s all-time scoring charts.
Nevertheless, a return of just two Premier League goals in 10 matches has led to concerns about the consistency of the United and England captain.
Spanish midfielder Herrera, though, has defended the 30-year-old.
“He is one of the best players in the world,” Herrera said.
“I try to not read (what the critics say) too much. I try to create my own opinion and my opinion is clear – Wayne Rooney is one of the best.”
Herrera believes Rooney’s game is about much more than just his goals ratio.
“He is one of the stars, but he is not selfish,” Herrera said.
“If he scores of course it is much better for everyone, but if he doesn’t score, he fights in the same way.
“The way he trains and the way he gives to the rest of the players his opinion, everything.
“Maybe the people outside see only in the pitch, but he is also very very important outside for everyone.”
Rooney headed in Jesse Lingard’s superbly weighted first-time pass to defeat the Russians and keep United on course for the knockout stages of the Champions League as they moved top of Group B.
It was the first time van Gaal’s side had scored in 404 minutes.
Goalless draws against Manchester City, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough – who went on to knock United out of the Capital One Cup on penalties – led to some disquiet among some Red Devils’ supporters.
The fans again objected to the Dutchman’s tactics on Tuesday night when he replaced Anthony Martial with Marouane Fellaini in the 66th minute.
Boos rang out at Old Trafford when the substitution was announced and supporters then began to sing “We’re Man Utd, we want to attack.”
While a lack of goals and attacking play is clearly a concern among the fanbase, Herrera pointed out United’s excellent defensive record should be admired too.
“That’s a positive,” he said when asked about United’s 11th clean sheet of the season.
“We saw last year that Chelsea didn’t score too many goals, but they didn’t concede too many either so that is important when you want to do a great season, you have to give away not too many chances.”
Like Martial, Herrera is a popular player among the fans because of his ability to run at defenders and his willingness to take risks.
For that reason, they chanted his name in the second half when United were struggling to score and Van Gaal eventually relented, bringing the 26-year-old on in the final minute.
“They show me every day their support. I am very thankful for that,” he said.
“They give me the strength to keep fighting, to keep playing as good as possible and giving everything for this club.”