Wayne Rooney’s eventual transition from striker to midfielder is something the majority of Manchester United fans took as red. It has been a question of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’, for many years now.
Louis van Gaal decided earlier this season that the time was right for Rooney to make that transition - and even though his past performances in central midfield hadn’t been fantastic, perhaps he was now at the ideal age to play the Paul Scholes role and dictate the tempo of matches from a deeper position.
But Van Gaal’s decision to start playing Rooney in midfield was based solely on his desire to play Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao together in attack. Both experiments have failed dismally this season.
Herrera is a better midfield option
Van Gaal maintains that playing Rooney in midfield gives Manchester United balance, but surely he would be better off playing the England international upfront with either Falcao or Van Persie, allowing Herrera - a £29 million summer signing, lest we forget - to occupy that central midfield role.
Herrera brings energy and control to United’s midfield; Rooney, meanwhile, can spray pretty passes around from his deep-lying playmaker role but lacks the same tenacity as his younger teammate.
Rooney ineffective in midfield
Rooney has spent his entire career playing in the final third of the pitch - despite his fantastic willingness to track back and support his teammates - and learning a brand new position is a challenge that can trouble even the most intelligent footballers.
Rooney is certainly blessed with plenty of football intelligence, but using him in midfield limits his overall effectiveness by at least 50 per cent.
That the 29-year-old has failed to have a single shot at goal in 2015 says everything - and quite why it hasn’t told Van Gaal anything is as baffling as it is concerning.
Rooney has top scorer records in sight
Van Gaal should also take into consideration the fact Rooney is the third highest goalscorer in Manchester United’s entire history - ahead of the likes of Ryan Giggs, George Best and Jack Rowley.
He needs another 26 goals to become the Red Devils’ all-time top scorer, but at this rate he will struggle to overtake Denis Law’s record of 237 goals - just 13 more than Rooney’s current tally.
All the noises from Van Gaal, whose stubbornness appears to know no bounds, suggests Rooney will continue to play in central midfield for the time being.
Rooney must consider leaving United if this continues
And if this is the case then Rooney must seriously consider his future at Old Trafford.
Rooney is currently in the peak years of his career. We all saw earlier this season that he’s still capable of banging in the goals for both club and country on a consistent basis. By the end of this year he should - should - be England’s all-time top goalscorer.
Rooney would be a first-choice striker at almost every club on the planet - and both he and his agent will be acutely aware of that fact.
Perhaps he wouldn’t earn the £300,000-a-week he is reportedly earning at Old Trafford, but at least he would be playing in his natural position again and, crucially, scoring goals and enjoying his football.
This time Rooney would be well within his rights to submit a transfer request - and Van Gaal would be entirely to blame.
Should Wayne Rooney attempt to leave Manchester United if Van Gaal continues playing him in midfield? Have your say in the comments below.