Manchester United have one of the best attacking line-up in the country with Radamel Falcao, Robin Van Persie and the local hero Wayne Rooney. Despite possessing these great names, the team is struggling to threaten the opposition goal. Part of the reason is Van Gaal’s most used word ‘Philosophy’.
Even before the season started, the Dutch manager put a bombshell by claiming that Rooney is better has a number-ten (Attacking midfielder) rather than a number-nine (Striker). But, how wrong could he be! There is a reason why the English striker has scored more than 200 goals for the club and country. If he had been poor up-front, Rooney would have not lasted this long for the club or the country.
Hence, seeing Van Gaal overlook him for the misfiring Van Persie and Falcao is hard to understand. Despite the pair struggling to regularly score goals, the Dutchman is constantly prioritizing them ahead of the proven English striker.
Rooney’s midfield dilemma
Even the young James Wilson has played more matches up-front for United this season than Rooney. Bizarrely in the replay against Cambridge United, Maroune Fellaini was given the nod ahead of Rooney to play as a striker. That tactic may work in nights like those where big physical players are needed to break the oppositions resilience. But, in other matches when United are expected to dominate the possession, Rooney has got to start as a striker, but for some reason Van Gaal is not doing it.
Also it is not only about playing Rooney up-front, but using him deep midfield positions are irking the clubs faithful and the fans. Under Sir Alex Ferguson’s final years and the ten-month disastrous David Moyes spell, Rooney was played as a number ten in a 4-2-3-1 formation. When, United are defending, Rooney drops back to offer the extra body in midfield. And, when the team is attacking he will link up with Van Persie to be a striker.
But, this season Van Gaal has played Rooney all over the midfield positions. At the beginning of the great winning run in November, Rooney played as one of the three midfielders in a 4-3-3 formation. Then, he was asked to play as a right sided midfielder in a 4-1-2-1-2 (Diamond formation). In the match FA cup replay against Cambridge United, Rooney play wide to let Fellaini play up-front. Against West Ham United, Rooney at times occupied more deeper role than Daley Blind. Credit to the English forward, he has not complained much about it and has always given his best.
Forntline’s lack of chemistry
It is not only about playing Rooney in the middle, but Van Gaal’s reluctance to change the front-line of Van Persie and Falcao is irking many. The pair is struggling for confidence and are finding it difficult to link up properly between each other. Except for that one well timed pass from Van Persie to Falcao in the second half which the latter missed, the duo struggled to mingle properly.
Also not bringing on James Wilson against West Ham was a big mistake. The young striker needs more chances to show his ability. In his last four matches, the player has scored twice. Both the goals were scored after coming on as a substitute. So the confidence from the player might be sky high now, but for some reason Van Gaal did not give him the chance. He could very well become Uniteds ‘Harry Kane’ if he is nurtured in the right way. So its up to Van Gaal to either stick with the existing crop of expensive strikers or for a change drop one of them and give the youngster a chance.
Moreover, it is not just about playing two up-front, the Dutch manager can go back to his favourite formation of 4-2-3-1 and play just the one striker and Rooney behind him as a ‘Trequartista’. Or worse come worse, he can play Rooney alone up front and fill the midfield position with the likes of Di Maria, Mata, Hererra and Fellaini. It is unlikely Van Gaal will change his adamant nature, so Rooney has to transform himself into a midfield player and the rest of the fans need to pray that either one of Falcao or Van Persie hit the ground running. Tough times ahead for United fans!
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