Wayne Rooney must start FA Cup clash up-front

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Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney must start Monday night's FA Cup clash against Preston North End up-front.

Whether it's on his own as part of a 4-2-3-1 formation or in a pairing as part of a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 formation, it doesn't really matter. Just get him leading the line.

Midfield ones

Rooney has been a shadow of himself playing in defensive midfield recently, as manager Louis van Gaal continues to tinker with his side. He's also pushed the England skipper out wide on the right on occasion as part of a diamond formation.

Wherever he's played, he has not been as influential as he can be. If the idea is that Rooney plays deeper to try and dictate play, then that is one thing. You can't criticise for Van Gaal for trying to do things differently.

But, when it clearly hasn't worked, there becomes a point when it's just stubbornness on the part of the manager. Let's not kid ourselves - it hasn't worked.

The only thing Rooney has done in his last two matches is pick up bookings. His growing frustration is bubbling over into frustration and he's becoming more and more involved in moaning sessions with officials.

As captain, it's Rooney's job to hold court with referees. But his body language is giving the game away. You can't question the 29-year-old's commitment to the cause - he would play left-back if the manager told him to.

Horrible record

But if you do that, you're not going to get the best out of the player. The stats tell you everything you need to know.

0 shots against Burnley; 1 shot against West Ham; 1 shot against Leicester; 1 shot against QPR - that's the last four Premier League games Manchester United have played.

Rooney has not scored in those games either, instead watching Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie struggle in-front of goal. The Colombian in particular has been finding life hard in the English top flight.

Van Persie absence

It's Robin van Persie who is set to miss out in the FA Cup on Monday night though, with Van Gaal admitting on Friday that he needed a couple of days off before making a decision on the trip to Deepdale.

It might actually be a blessing in disguise if the Dutchman can't make the trip, because it is likely to force his compatriot's hand over striker selection - unless he goes with James Wilson, of course.

Rooney deserves a chance

You never can second guess Van Gaal. If he started with Wilson up-front, would anybody really be surprised. They might be angry though, because it would be another slap in the face for Rooney.

He is a striker. He plays to score goals; he will likely end his career as England's finest finisher. If Van Gaal can't see that and won't give him a chance at the top of the field, then he shouldn't be Manchester United manager.

What do you think Manchester United fans - should Wayne Rooney start up-front against Preston or continue in midfield?

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Premier League
Wayne Rooney
Manchester United

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