Wayne Rooney has always been a controversial figure in the world of football. Some believe he is overrated while others believe the opposite.
Nevertheless, Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal seems to hold the England international with the highest regard. Van Gaal has proclaimed Rooney as his first choice forward and has opted not to sign a new striker this summer.
"He's our striker. He has to prove it but I'm fully confident he shall do that - and he's also captain of the team.
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"He'll play a lot in the striker's position."
This assurance of a guaranteed position up front is something that has eluded Rooney throughout his career.
Last season, the Englishman was shunted around the team during times of injury. Apart from playing upfront, Rooney was placed in attacking midfield, right midfield, and even holding midfield. Its fair to say that the striker was ineffective in the latter two positions.
During David Moyes’ short tenure, Rooney occupied a role in behind Robin Van Persie. When he wasn’t playing as a second striker he was even further back in holding midfield.
This pattern continued, season after season. The Manchester United captain has been criticized for his lack of goals. However, consistently playing out of position is a major cause of this.
Wayne Rooney has scored over thirty goals in a season just twice during his career. What makes this interesting is that these were the two seasons in which Rooney was playing exclusively as a striker.
So what does Rooney offer as an out and out forward? He can get in behind defences with his underestimated pace.
As we saw last season, Louis van Gaal instructed the Englishman to stay high in order to create space for teammates. An unrestricted Rooney would roam all over the pitch to pick up possession.
His ability to switch the point of play with a “Hollywood” ball coupled with technical ability on the ball makes Rooney a dynamic player even when not receiving service upfront.
Apart from Van Gaal’s backing of the player, there is another sign next season will be a big one for Wayne.
The England captain will be accompanied by other top class players at his club. What many do not realize is that Manchester United were bereft of top quality starting from the twentieth league title.
Sure, Robin van Persie was in the team, but apart from him and Rooney who else could you label a world class player? Things got even worse under Moyes as the veterans aged and the younger players failed to develop as Alex Ferguson would have hoped.
Tom Cleverley was sold and only Chris Smalling has shown any signs of improvement since then.
Next season, United will be bolstered by the signings of not one but four players. Having already signed multiple players last season, Van Gaal’s overhaul is already well underway.
The midfield oozes of quality, boasting the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick. These players can win the ball, keep possession and carve out chances for goal scoring opportunities.
Not only does this quartet provide quality, they will also take away the need for Rooney to fill in at central midfield.
There have been other notable additions as well like winger/forward Memphis Depay. Van Gaal has used him in behind Rooney and the early signs from pre-season show a great partnership forming as the pair both netted goals during pre-season.
Manchester United are evolving into a Louis van Gaal side and lucky for Wazza, it's a side he can thrive in.