Thursday 26 April 2018

Louis van Gaal has solved his striker problems - Marouane Fellaini to play up front

Marouane Fellaini celebrates after scoring the third goal for Manchester United at the death
Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff
Marouane Fellaini celebrates after scoring the third goal for Manchester United at the death Action Images via Reuters / Jason Cairnduff

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has revealed he intends to use Marouane Fellaini as a striker this season.

United may have enjoyed an unbeaten start to the season, but their form in front of goal has so far been far from successful.

United have scored just twice in three league matches - and one of those was an own goal by Kyle Walker. Wayne Rooney, who has failed to score in 10 matches, and Javier Hernandez are yet to open their account this term while James Wilson is yet to feature in the first team.

Despite being linked with a number of targets, Van Gaal insists he does not need to sign a striker before the transfer window shuts on Tuesday.

That can in part be explained by his plan for Fellaini, which was revealed on the eve of the second leg of United's Champions League play-off against Club Brugge.

"He can play in a nine position and a 10," United manager Van Gaal said.

"He can also play at six and eight, but this year he shall play more at nine and 10 because there we have other players."

Fellaini's height and strength make him ideal for the role of lone frontman, but he only scored seven goals last season - half the total of top scorer Rooney.

The Belgian scored a key stoppage-time header to give United a 3-1 advantage over Brugge last week, however, and is keen to play up front if his manager believes that is the best place for him.

"In the past I have played number 10 and number nine sometimes so I can play there and help my team-mates and my team," Fellaini said.

"It is different to play midfield and striker but I enjoy all the positions I can play."

Fellaini became something of a scapegoat for the failed reign of David Moyes, and it was anticipated he would be sold by Van Gaal when he replaced the Scot last summer.

But Van Gaal kept faith with the 6ft 4in midfielder and his form was key to the turnaround in the club's fortunes last winter.

The £27.5million signing is glad to have put his dark days at Old Trafford behind him.

"Everyone knows my first season was difficult but it is the past," Fellaini said.

"Now I look forward. Last year I did quite well. I want to continue like that.

"I know my team-mates and the manager. I am just looking forward to doing well and scoring some goals."

Had Fellaini not converted Memphis Depay's cross in stoppage-time at Old Trafford last Tuesday, United would be sitting on a one-goal lead going into this week's second leg.

Van Gaal's team are odds-on favourites to progress to the group stages, but the 64-year-old has told his squad they must not think the tie is already over.

The fact that Brugge overturned a deficit to defeat Panathinaikos 4-2 on aggregate in the last round should be treated as a warning, according to the United coach.

"They won against their Greek opponent 3-0 so they are capable to do that with the support of the fans," Van Gaal said.

"I don't think my players shall take it easy."

Van Gaal being Van Gaal, qualifying for the group stages is the bare minimum he expects.

At his pre-match press conference, the Dutchman spoke with pride about winning the Champions League with Ajax 20 years ago.

That year Van Gaal deployed teenagers like Patrick Kluivert and Clarence Seedorf alongside seasoned professionals like Danny Blind and Frank Rijkaard to devastating effect.

Ajax upset the odds to beat AC Milan in the final, and this year Van Gaal thinks he has a squad of a similar blend.

"Yes, I believe in that. I believe more in the mix than players only from 27 to 34," he said.

"We won the final with 18 and 19 year-olds but also with players like (Michael) Carrick and (Bastian) Schweinsteiger."

Online Editors

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