By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens

Wayne Rooney has all but admitted Manchester United’s hopes of making the top four this season are over after the team’s 2-1 defeat at Sunderland.

The Premier League giants remain six points behind fourth-placed Manchester City after their seventh league defeat of the season ahead of a Sunday programme in which the top four are all pitted against one another.

Louis van Gaal’s team went behind early on at the Stadium of Light before Anthony Martial brought them level shortly before half-time.

But Lamine Kone took advantage of poor marking from Chris Smalling to powerfully plant an 82nd-minute header under David De Gea to give a major boost to Sunderland’s hopes of avoiding relegation.

Speaking to BT Sport afterwards, Rooney said: “It’ll be difficult to quality for the Champions League in the top four now. We know that. It’s a sad day for us. We have to somehow move on.

“I didn’t think we created enough chances, weren’t aggressive enough. Disappointing result. I think we didn’t play well today, we know that. We didn’t win enough second balls. It’s not good enough.”

Louis van Gaal's position at Manchester United is under growing threat

Dark days: Van Gaal’s position is under growing threat at United

United return to European action in midweek but they will be competing in the Europa League after being eliminated from the Champions League before Christmas.

“It’s obviously a competition we didn’t want to be in, but we want to win it. Every game is a big game for us now. We need to start again on Thursday.”