Three reasons why Man United must play Wayne Rooney as a striker
Gregor Vasconcelos examines why Louis van Gaal must play Wayne Rooney in his orthodox striker role
It drowns out the strongest aspect of his game
While Wayne Rooney is undoubtedly capable of creating chances for his team-mates, it is difficult to argue that finishing is not the strongest part of his game. Rooney has always been at his most effective in front of goal, with the prime example being the 2009/10 season, when he played as the focal point of attack and scored 34 goals. In the current season he has but eight, but the last of these was on Boxing Day. Now, further away from goal, he rarely finds himself in the positions in which he can give a telling contribution. He has not only failed to score or assist a Premier League goal in 2015, he has not yet mustered a single shot on target.
Rooney provides a perfect foil for Van Persie and Falcao
The Robin van Persie-Radamel Falcao partnership upfront has been a constant source of disappointment. Despite the odd-goal, the duo has flattered to deceive, and while that can be partially blamed on the lack of service, it is also due to the imbalance of the partnership. Falcao has lost much of his agility since his injury last season and Van Persie has not been the world’s most mobile players since being moved into the centre-forward position by Arsene Wenger in 2009. While both are fine players in their own right, together, they make for a static attack. Louis van Gaal has tried to correct this by playing Angel Di Maria up front at times, but it seems a pointless experiment when he’s had the missing ingredient in his squad all along. Rooney’s endeavour, enterprise and movement is just what Manchester United need to counterbalance the lethargy that van Persie and Falcao have provided so far this season.
The whole team look lost
The truth is Rooney playing in midfield is symptomatic of the way which Van Gaal has insisted on leaving his stamp on this United side. Rooney is only one among myriads of players who are being played out of position. Deploying Rooney behind the strikers, he displaces either Di Maria or Juan Mata, who are both more suited to that role. Because of this, United don’t simply have Rooney trying to assimilate into an unfamiliar position, they have a whole host of players. Di Maria looks just as lost when playing upfront, while Mata’s effectiveness is stifle away from the no. 10 position. Due to so many players playing in unfamiliar positions, the team as a whole lack cohesion. It seems an exercise in futility trying to turn so many player, masters of their positions, into jacks of all trade and thus undermining their effectiveness.