Saturday 24 March 2018

Struggling Wayne Rooney heading for unwanted milestone

Wayne Rooney is approaching 1000 minutes without a goal in the Premier League
Wayne Rooney is approaching 1000 minutes without a goal in the Premier League

Mark Ogden

Louis van Gaal has insisted he has no concerns over Wayne Rooney's inability to score in the Premier League so far this season as the Manchester United captain closes in on 1,000 minutes without a top-flight goal.

Rooney, whose goal in the League Cup victory against Ipswich in midweek was his first at Old Trafford this season, has failed to score in the league since a 79th-minute effort against Aston Villa in April.

Despite scoring six goals in all competitions for club and country this season, Rooney's goalless run in the league now stands at 954 minutes, ensuring he will break the 1,000-minute mark if he does not score inside the opening 46 minutes of United's clash with Sunderland today.

The barren run is the longest of Rooney's career, but with £36m new signing Anthony Martial bringing goals and pace to the United forward line since his deadline-day arrival from Monaco, Van Gaal claims it is only a matter of time before Rooney scores in the league.

"I don't think that [goalless run] is an issue for him, for me or for the club, so he shall score also in the Premier League," Van Gaal said.

"The goals that he scored against Bruges were excellent, especially the first goal, with his movement and then the chip to beat the goalkeeper.

"He has been unlucky [in the league]. Against Newcastle, he scored and it was not offside but it was cancelled. You cannot manage the referee."

With Martial having scored four goals in four games so far, United's attacking approach has evolved to the extent that Rooney now plays off the main striker, rather than as the focal point of the front line.

Van Gaal expects that the introduction of Martial, 19, who can become the first player to score in his first three Premier League games for United today, will help Rooney to find more space.

"I don't say that's why we bought Martial, but we bought a type like that as in our philosophy that's very important.

"I have been saying many times that I want speed. I want creativity and that's why we bought Memphis Depay and why we bought Martial also.

"But I think that Wayne can play a lot of positions. I want to play with a first striker and a second striker and maybe they [Rooney and Martial] are a very good duo together.

"I also have to wait and see if Rooney can play as a second striker in this system, which we now play.

"He is a striker for me. Maybe I shall use him behind Martial, but when he plays with [Marouane] Fellaini, he shall always play in front because I want a striker who is running in behind."

Van Gaal believes that Martial bears a resemblance to Patrick Kluivert, who spearheaded the Ajax team which Van Gaal coached to the Champions League title in 1995. "You can compare them because Kluivert was also a fantastic, athletic figure and scored goals right from the beginning," said Van Gaal.

Van Gaal revealed that he visited Luke Shaw on Thursday to assess the defender's recovery from a double leg fracture, which is likely to keep him sidelined for six months.

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