Sport Soccer

Thursday 14 December 2017

Rooney is a top striker - Van Gaal

Wayne Rooney has been playing in midfield for Manchester United
Wayne Rooney has been playing in midfield for Manchester United

Louis van Gaal still rates Wayne Rooney as a striker even though he has dropped his captain into a deeper midfield role in recent weeks.

At the beginning of Van Gaal's reign, it seemed only a matter of time before Rooney would break Sir Bobby Charlton's scoring record.

The striker was in good form, scoring 11 goals before December for club and country.

But the goals have dried up somewhat since, and the idea that he will definitely bridge the 25-goal gap between himself and Charlton has been put into question because of his positional change.

Rooney started the season as a striker, but Van Gaal moved him back to number 10, then into central midfield and he ended Wednesday night's 3-1 win over Burnley as a defensive midfielder.

Van Gaal has been heavily criticised for moving Rooney back deeper and deeper, but that does not mean his days are numbered as a centre-forward.

"He is maybe the best striker (I have)," the United manager said.

"It is not that anybody isn't a good player in my selection. I have to look at where each player can make the biggest contribution.

"It's the composition, which is more important than the individual player."

Roy Hodgson indicated this week that Rooney will play up front in the upcoming internationals against Lithuania and Italy.

Van Gaal insists he has no problems with the England manager over his comments and claims he would do the same were he in his shoes.

"In the composition for Mr Hodgson, Rooney is probably giving more contribution to the English team in the striker's position, then I would put him there too if I was the English manager," Van Gaal said.

"He (Hodgson) has to compare Rooney with other strikers in his line-up and that is another consideration I have to make.

"I have to choose between (Radamel) Falcao, Robin van Persie and all the other strikers I have, then it is my consideration that is a different way."

Hodgson will be in the BBC studio at Deepdale on Monday night to watch his captain play against Preston in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

At the other end of the pitch, Van Gaal looks set to start with David de Gea in goal.

It was widely assumed Victor Valdes would play in the FA Cup after he signed on a free transfer, but Van Gaal has stuck with De Gea and that looks set to be the case for a while.

Valdes, who has not played a competitive game since March because of a serious knee injury, will have to make a big impression in the reserves to oust his in-form compatriot if he is to start the next match in the competition, assuming United are not knocked out by their League One opponents.

"(Valdes) has to (prove himself) in the second team," Van Gaal said.

"When you are out for more than one year, you have to show yourself at a lower level. Like Ashley Young is doing, like Michael Carrick did, it's always the same, it is normal."

De Gea won the player of the year award last season and on current form, he looks likely to win the gong again this term.

The Spaniard has put in a series of outstanding displays this year, but Van Gaal refused to reveal whether he thought the 24-year-old is the best in the world.

"I never speak about that because I can never judge other goalkeeper, I can only judge mine," he said.

"He doesn't save any points as he is my goalkeeper and his obligation is to hold balls and you are thinking that is an exception for other goalkeepers? It is not like that."

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