Wayne Rooney is the prolific striker Manchester United need

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Manchester United need goals up front. And manager Louis van Gaal, without being anything remotely reticent about the matter, has unabashedly admitted that his side are in need of a more reliable striker to lead the attack.

United's defence has been solid and is vastly improving after a stuttering start to the season, but it's business at the other end of the field which needs improving and strikers Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney in particular haven't reached the heights expected of them this season.

United's misfiring trio

And there is a variety of reasons as to why the trio, who have scored 20 goals a season twelve times between them are misfiring under Van Gaal.

"It is true because I cannot deny it, Robin van Persie cannot deny it, Falcao cannot deny it and Rooney is not playing there much any more, but we cannot deny that at this moment we don’t have a striker who scores 20 goals in the season," admitted the Dutchman.

Colombian superstar Falcao has massively under-performed this season since his expensive loan move from AS Monaco at the start of this season. The former Porto and Atletico man has scored just four goals in all competitions for the Red Devils which has coherently done little to justify his high wage bill.

Van Persie struggles

Van Persie, who single handedly led United's title surge back in the 2012/13 season, looks like a shadow of the player he once was as his inconsistency in front of goal has led the United fans to question his place in the starting XI of the team.

The Dutchman has only managed to score 10 goals in all competitions this season and had to leave the Liberty Stadium on crutches after injuring himself towards the end of United's 2-1 league defeat at the hands of Swansea City. The former Arsenal man is expected to be out for a few weeks.

Rooney sympathising

But when it comes to Rooney, we could bring a little pragmatism and rationality to our argument and astonishingly, even sympathise with the England captain. The United stalwart has been primarily used as a centre-midfield by Van Gaal this season. Yet, he is the club's top scorer with 11 goals. Here's a breakdown of all the positions Rooney has played this season.

Central Midfield - Apps: 12, Goals: 3, Assists: 1

Centre Forward: Apps: 6, Goals: 2, Assists: 2

Attacking Midfield: Apps: 4, Goals: 4, Assists: 1

Forward (left): Apps: 1, Goals: 1, Assists: 0

(Stats from WhoScored)

The former Everton man is at his devastating best when played higher up the pitch in an attacking midfield role or as a striker. Didn't those performances up front testify his attacking prowess?

Van Gaal questions

Van Gaal has been facing serious questions about his deployment of several players in roles different to what they are usually accustomed to, particularly Rooney and Di Maria, and whether his philosophy risks damaging the players' actual thought process on the pitch.

"You have to ask the player that," he said.

"I give a lot of space to all the players because in an attacking way they create more when they are free.

"But when you want to win as a team you have to defend also and he has to do that. It is not always the fault of the manager when a player is not performing well, I can tell you!"

Rooney the midfielder?

Let's be honest. Rooney is not the all conquering midfielder that United could actually do with right now. There maybe two reasons why Van Gaal has often deployed him in central midfield. Firstly, he is the captain and Van Gaal probably wants his captain amid the thick of things, to dictate the tempo of the game from the middle.

Secondly, he is trying to accommodate the plethora of attack minded players at his disposal. But this is clearly not working out and United have been haphazard and tedious throughout the season.

Rooney has scored 20+ goals four times in his United career. The England captain didn't take long to prove his attacking impetus, as his brace against Sunderland at the weekend ended a long and spiritless performance in a 2-0 victory for the Red Devils.

United travel to Tyneside in the midweek to face Newcastle United at St.James Park and it will be interesting to see where Rooney starts the game. Where would you play him? Let us know in the comments box below...

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Premier League
Wayne Rooney
Robin Van Persie
Manchester United
Louis van Gaal

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