Van Gaal praises Wayne Rooney's honesty but warns it could backfire
Van Gaal hails his captain but says he has now taken a 'risk' with his candour because it might draw even more attention to him
Louis van Gaal has praised Wayne Rooney’s honesty for admitting his form has suffered – but claimed the Manchester United captain has now taken a “risk” with his candour because it might draw even more attention to him.
The United manager said he agreed with Rooney that the striker’s performance against Aston Villa last Friday, which drew criticism and fuelled the debate as to the 29-year-old’s possible decline, had been “very bad”.
“It starts always with the player himself,” Van Gaal said when asked about Rooney’s plain speaking when, in the wake of the Champions League victory over Club Brugge, during which he was substituted, he said he had been “below my standards” at Villa Park.
It was an admission of which Van Gaal approved. “And when you are saying so publicly that you are so bad then you know that you are very bad at that time,” he added.
“But I think that’s fantastic that a player admits that and it’s also, for me, unbelievable because he is one of the few players who is saying such things because it can ... [be] a risk I think. But he is very confident that he shall make the goals that we expect from him. And I have that confidence also.”
Does Van Gaal like that kind of public admission from one of his players? “Yes, of course, because my first answer was it starts with the player himself. He has to admit that he was bad and then he can improve. When you don’t admit, you cannot improve.”
It also sounded like Rooney’s admission had been something the player had also made to the manager, privately, following what is now a run of eight matches without a goal which will be all the more concerning given he has been restored to the centre-forward’s role for this campaign.
It is a role which Van Gaal said he will retain Rooney in. “My standards he knows already,” Van Gaal said. “He knows my philosophy, he knows what I want from a striker and how he has to perform. He thinks he can perform that and I think that also otherwise I don’t put him in the striker’s position.
“So I have tried last year all the positions – because he played in various positions and he can play in various positions, multifunctional, but I think his best position now is the striker’s position and he agreed with that conclusion. And the second position is the No 10.”
Van Gaal also staunchly insisted that United had decided against signing Pedro – rather than having been caught out prevaricating over the deal only to be gazumped by Chelsea, who quickly secured the Spanish international from Barcelona by triggering his €30 million (£21.4 million) release clause.
Manchester United transfer news: If we wanted Pedro we would have beaten Chelsea to signing, says Louis van Gaal
Jose Mourinho, however, said that he had expected Pedro to join United and that he had had a “one minute conversation” with the forward to persuade him to join Chelsea. “For me, it was one minute,” he said.
“I told to my people in the club, responsible for the practical side of the market, that he hadn’t signed for another club. Almost, but not yet. He told me he wants to come here, so it’s over to you. I thought he would never leave Barcelona.”
What United want now is to sign Sadio Mané from Southampton with the club considering when to submit a second bid for the Senegal forward.
Southampton insist they have not received an offer for Mané with manager Ronald Koeman even claiming there had been no contact between the clubs over the 23-year-old.
That is disputed. United are now considering an improved offer in excess of the Pedro release clause, so more than £21 million, to try to sign Mané before the transfer window closes but are aware that Southampton do not want to sell.
“I think that when Manchester United want a player, he shall come,” Van Gaal said. “[Except for] when the club is not selling.
"It’s the same with us. When we are not selling [David] De Gea [to Real Madrid], it’s the same.”