Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney is set to continue playing in a deeper midfield role after Louis van Gaal indicated that he had no plans to move him back upfront.
The 29-year-old has been deployed in central midfield in recent matches to accommodate the likes of Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao, Juan Mata and James Wilson.
But Van Gaal believes Rooney possesses the required quality to play in multiple positions, including central midfield, for the Red Devils.
Van Gaal praises Rooney's versatility
"Wayne is a player who can play in different positions and I like that because I like multi functional players," Van Gaal told reporters. "That’s why I can use him as a midfielder, also as a striker and an attacking midfielder. The last game he was more a defensive midfielder.
"I like that he is also coming into the penalty area because he can score goals. He has the ability to run from box to box but I like him closer to the opponents penalty area than our goal.”
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Van Gaal's earlier hint
Back in September, Van Gaal hinted that Rooney’s long-term future at Old Trafford was not as a centre-forward, despite the fact he currently sits third in Manchester United’s all-time list of top scorers and needs just four more goals to overtake Bobby Charlton as England’s record scorer.
“I was not so satisfied with Rooney as a striker and [Juan] Mata as midfielder,” Van Gaal stated after the now infamous 5-3 defeat to Leicester City. “That is why I changed. Rooney can play in more positions, he’s a multi-functional player and I have tried him in a striker’s position. He has played well, but not spectacular. [Radamel] Falcao is a striker and I think he can do it better.”
Rooney effective in midfield
Against Liverpool and Aston Villa, Rooney was deployed in central midfield - alongside Marouane Fellaini and Darren Fletcher, respectively - and produced composed and disciplined performances in both matches.
The England skipper is one of United’s best passers - particularly cross-field - and has the ability to dictate play from a deeper position.
Rooney still better upfront?
But there are supporters who still believe Rooney is most effective when deployed as a centre-forward. This is a striker who has scored 222 goals in 454 appearances for the Red Devils, after all.
But unless Van Persie or Falcao suffer a serious dip in form or get injured, it seems Rooney will need to continue getting used to his new position at Manchester United.
United fans: tell us where is Rooney at his most effective - central midfield or upfront?