Whether it be the present Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal or the previous manager David Moyes, identifying Rooney’s best position in the team line up has always been a difficult task for them. The flexibility is Rooney’s strength as he can play up front as a lone striker or a supporting striker, also he can be deployed in the flanks or even in the midfield. However, his strength has become his weakness, as the managers are struggling to find his best position in the team.
Even the retired legendary United manager Sir Alex Ferguson at times found it difficult to fit in Rooney among the star studded firepower his United team had. In 2008 and 2009 champions league finals, Rooney was used in wide to let Tevez and Ronaldo occupy the central position. After those two left, Rooney was allowed to play up front on his own, during which he managed to score 34 times in the 2009-10 season.
Despite doing reasonably well up front, Ferguson never really trusted him as a lone striker as Rooney regularly drops back in midfield to get involved in the play rather than playing on the last defender’s shoulder. So the great Scot bought Van Persie during his last campaign at United. As a result, Rooney was asked to fill the number 10 position behind the striker. Rooney who initially expressed his unhappiness for playing in midfield, later made that position as his own. The late runs he makes into the opposition penalty boxes are a nightmare to defend like the brace he scored against Manchester City at Etihad stadium in 2012.
Having said that the reason behind deploying Rooney in that position was to help United’s midfield when they are being outnumbered by the opposition midfield. However, seeing the way the team was outclassed in the middle of the park during big matches in the last couple of seasons shows that deploying the England captain in that position is not working well for the team. Because Rooney (despite falling back regularly in midfield to help his team in defence) is not a natural midfielder, so like any other midfielder he not necessarily places his priority on the teams defence ahead of the attack.
This made us wonder where Van Gaal will use Rooney after taking charge at United? The Dutch maestro has gone in a similar fashion of playing Rooney in the number 10 position. Van Gaal has gone public on this issue and claimed that Rooney is best when played in number 10 due to his good link up play between midfield and attack. But, the Dutch manager did not stop there and turned Rooney into an out and out midfielder against Crystal Palace, when Rooney and Fellaini was supporting on either side of the holding midfielder Carrick.
Moving Rooney into midfield may have helped the team in retaining position, however playing a man who has scored more than 200 goals in midfield will certainly limit the team as a attacking threat. This was evident against Crystal Palace, when Rooney hardly got into box. In fact, Fellaini moved into the box more often than Rooney in that match, which may not be a good sight for United faithful.
Many believed that Rooney might be the long term replacement for Scholes in the midfield. However, that was expected to happen when Rooney loses his legs to terrorize the opposition defence on his own. But, seeing a player at his peak being deployed in midfield is not pleasing many. To his credit, Rooney has not complained much about his position and has always given his maximum wherever the team asks to play him. Despite of it finding that one position which suits him and the team has always been a difficult job for the present as well as the past mangers. Of all the problems United are facing right now, it is time for Van Gaal to make the call on Rooney’s long term position in the team. The sooner the better for both the player and the team.
Image Courtesy – Bleacher Report