Louis van Gaal dropped Wayne Rooney from the starting line-up for the first time since taking over as manager for Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat against Stoke on Boxing Day.

In 2016, Rooney has scored in every single game, with five goals in four games, including the winner yesterday at Anfield.

Chris Smalling reckons that being left out of the starting team has served to motivate Rooney.

Since that game [Stoke], he has come back in and shown he is a top-class performer. I think [being left out] can refresh you and spur you on a bit more, to prove to everyone just how good you are. Strikers go through periods when they don’t score but the best ones are those that come back and get on another run. Wazza has shown that [ability to bounce back] throughout his career and it’s good to see he is among the goals again.

Morgan Schneiderlin has also sung the praises of our captain following the win over Liverpool.

Wayne is still the main figure at the club, he’s the one guy who has scored so many goals in his career and he will keep doing it. Sometimes you have spells where you don’t score but he has kept the smile on his face and trained hard. You saw his two goals against Newcastle were very good and today he scored another amazing goal. We need him in the second half of the season if we are to achieve something special.