Sunday 17 December 2017

Wayne Rooney set for return to striker role as Van Gaal rules out move for another attacker

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney

Mark Ogden

Wayne Rooney will be restored to a central striking role at Manchester United this season, with manager Louis van Gaal accepting that he diminishes the England captain's goalscoring talents by deploying him in midfield.

Rooney (29) is Manchester United's only fit senior forward following the sale of Dutch international Robin van Persie to Fenerbahce and Van Gaal's decision not to sign Radamel Falcao on a permanent contract at the end of his unsuccessful year on loan from Monaco last season.

Van Persie, who completed a £4.8m move to Turkey last week, has claimed that he wanted another chance to return to favour at United, only to be told to train with the reserves by Van Gaal.

"I know Louis as a national team coach and now I get to know him as a club coach," Van Persie said. "And there is a difference.

"It wasn't an honest battle any more. Fighting to get back in the team wasn't given me as an option. You have to make the best out of any situation so I'm doing this by moving on."

Despite the risk of relying on Rooney to stay fit and deliver at least 20 goals this season, Van Gaal has told United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward that he is prepared to go into the new campaign without adding another centre-forward to his squad.

Van Gaal is keen to pursue a deal for Barcelona forward striker, who can operate on the right of an attacking three as well as through the centre.

The 27-year-old is available for a fee of £22m as a result of his escape clause in his contract at the Nou Camp.

United are poised to battle it out with Chelsea to sign the Spain international, who has told friends that he favours a move to Old Trafford.

Van Gaal believes that Rooney (below) remains capable of reproducing the form that has taken him to within 19 goals of equalling Bobby Charlton's all-time England goalscoring record.

Rooney's haul last season of 14 goals in all competitions was his lowest return for United since his £27m move from Everton in August 2004.

However, Van Gaal has admitted to Rooney that he blunted his threat last season by asking him to play as a makeshift midfielder due to injuries to the likes of Michael Carrick and Daley Blind.

The Dutch manager believes that the game's leading strikers are all performing for powerful European clubs, making it hugely difficult for the manager to improve his attacking options.

Van Gaal has identified Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski and Paris St-Germain's Edinson Cavani as leading targets, but neither player will be sold this summer.

Beneath that level, United have watched Lazio's Felipe Anderson and Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette, but Van Gaal believes that Rooney still belongs in the top echelon of goalscorers and has told Woodward that he does not wish to add a centre-forward who is not of the same calibre.

With Van Gaal planning to deploy a 4-3-3 formation this season, with Rooney as his central striker, Pedro is regarded as a solution to the right-sided position, with Ashley Young, Angel di Maria and the summer signing Memphis Depay all able to play on the left or right.

United, who defeated Club America in Seattle in the opening game of their pre-season tour on Saturday, travel to California today to face San Jose Earthquakes tomorrow.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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