Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville believes Louis van Gaal is unlikely to partner Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao in attack together again this season.
Van Persie missed Monday night’s FA Cup victory over Preston North End through injury, allowing Wayne Rooney to play upfront for the first time since December.
Falcao endured another frustrating match - and Neville believes Van Gaal may decide to stick with Rooney as one of his two centre-forwards during the remaining months of the 2014-15 campaign.
Neville: Falcao/Van Persie experiment has failed
“Rooney is always central to these discussions, and seeing him go back to centre-forward last Monday at Preston tells me that the Van Persie-Falcao centre-forward experiment has probably ended,” Neville wrote in his latest Telegraph column.
“I’m not saying you will never see them again as a duo but it doesn't seem to work.
Neville explains why United are struggling
Neville went on to explain why Manchester United have struggled over recent weeks with Falcao and Van Persie leading the line.
“There is a particular movement that tells a story,” the England coach continued. “When the ball goes out to Shaw or Valencia in the advanced full-back area, those two forwards in a split-striker system need to make a ‘corner run’, in between centre-back and full-back: first, to give a forward-passing option to Valencia or Shaw, and second to stretch the defence and open space in midfield.
“Both those players – Van Persie and Falcao – are sometimes unable or unwilling to make those runs. Inevitably the ball then gets passed backwards. I think this can be directly linked to the lack of movement into wide areas from United’s strikers. This small change of movements would give more purpose to United’s play.
“In this current system, then, Rooney is a better bet at centre-forward. If Van Persie and Falcao are going to play as a pair, you would need to play with wide players who would service them. They are both box players who lack mobility and blistering pace.”
Falcao set to leave United this summer
Falcao produced arguably his worst performance of the season against Preston and was subsequently subbed off by Van Gaal after less than an hour, increasing speculation that his stay at Manchester United will be a brief one.
The Colombia international is currently on a season-long loan deal from AS Monaco but United are extremely unlikely to pay the £46 million required to sign him on a permanent contract this summer.
Van Persie could also leave
There’s a small chance that Van Persie could follow Falcao out of Old Trafford this summer unless his performances improve between now and May.
The Netherlands international has looked a shadow of the striker who inspired the Red Devils to their 20th league title at the end of the 2012-13 campaign, even though he has scored a reasonably impressive 10 goals in 23 Premier League appearances this season.
Van Persie will have 12 months left to run on his contract this summer, and the 31-year-old recently admitted he was unsure whether the club had any plans to offer him a new deal.
Rooney is Manchester United's best striker
On present form, Rooney is undoubtedly Manchester United’s best attacking option, despite the fact he has scored once since December.
Van Gaal significantly reduced the United captain’s overall impact by deploying him in central midfield - a decision which also left £29 million simmer signing Ander Herrera warming the subs’ bench.
Manchester United visit Swansea City this weekend, and Rooney is expected to lead the line upfront - possible alongside Van Persie - with Falcao dropped from the starting line-up.
Has the Van Persie/Falcao partnership been a complete failure? Is Rooney Manchester United’s best striker? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!