Wayne Rooney and manager Louis Van Gaal launched fierce defence of Manchester United defender Marcus Rojo, as his past has come back to haunt him, with his performances during the time at Spartak Moscow questioned on eve of CSKA Moscow tie.

Rojo signed for Spartak Moscow in December 2010, making only 19 first-team appearances in one and a half years before completing a transfer to Sporting Lisbon in July 2012.

Van Gaal responds to Rojo criticism

When a Russian journalist questioned Van Gaal’s decision to sign Rojo, questioning his performances with the Russian side, the Dutch manager said:”I didna t know that he played for Spartak Moscow, but I have seen him in the World Cup in Brazil when he played for Argentina.

a He did it very well and he also played for Sporting Lisbon. There I analysed him. What I like is that he is physically a very strong guy, he has a good header of the ball and his pass is very fast.

a That is what we always need, we need a high speed in our positional game. When he improves and he can reach a very high level because he is not fully developed yet. I think there is great potential in him to become a very good player for Manchester United.a

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Rooney hails Rojo as a team-mate

The Russian journalist went on to question Rooney as to what kind of team-mate Rojo was.

The English star replied: a For me as Marcosa s team-mate, I can say that he is a fantastic player and a fantastic person.

a He is a player who is very tough to get around, as the manager says.

“For him to be from Argentina and to come and play in the Premier League is not easy but he has done a great job and he will be a very important player for us for the rest of the season.a

The Argentine defender has been struggling with his fitness and has made only two appearance for Manchester United this term, although he grabbed a fantastic assist in the tie against Everton.

Rojo filled-in the left-back spot with Daley Blind rested and Luke Shaw out for the majority of the season.

The defender will have a key role to play this season given the left-back situation at United.