Wayne Rooney has just returned back from injury. And along with that, he has brought in many questions. Questions like what will happen to Marcus Rashford and what formation will United adopt now have made people think. But the most inquisitive of the lot is what position should Rooney play in the team? With just 4 games to go, the emphasis is been laid more on the next season. So which position should Wayne Rooney play next season?
With the kind of form, Marcus Rashford is producing it looks almost inevitable that he will be in the starting 11 and will take the main centre-forward role next season. So Rooney won’t be considered for that position. Now if one followed Rooney’s performance in the last 2 matches, one would have noticed that he was enjoying himself out there in the middle. More often than not Rooney has been seen being dazed and faded in the central striking position. He did have a good start to the second half of the season and was also among goals. But then you never know when the Englishman might again start looking dazed.
So should Van Gaal play him the central midfield position like he did last year? Absolutely not. Last year Van Gaal was short of players for that central role. This year he has had Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin and Carrick. And they have performed the duty of that role with conviction at times. Even Herrera has performed quite well in that central role. Also, Rooney doesn’t look like a player who can play out wide. His talents are best utilized when he plays through the middle. All these things point out to the fact that Rooney should play the behind the role striker.
What actually needs to be done is to play the 4-1-4-1 or the 4-3-3 formation like they did in the last match against Crystal Palace. These two formations allow the United players to express themselves better in the field. Rooney was seen to be very effective in this formation. He played behind the striker and fell back at most times allowing the other attackers to go forward. What he did was starting an attack from his own half with quite a bit of pace and then when he goes in the opponent half he slows down a bit and keeps the ball with him for a while. By that time the United attackers namely Martial, Rashford and even Mata at times went forward and the opponent defenders are caught in a fix. Playing Rooney in that role would allow the United fullbacks to run deep into the opponent half and wait for a Rooney’s long ball. I don’t know how many people have noticed but Rooney is a master at providing accurate long balls. This reminds me of the assist he gave to Robin van Persie in the 2012-2013 season. He gave a long ball from his own half to Van Persie and the Dutchman provided an exquisite finish. Rooney deliberately falls back in attacks so that he can receive the ball at the centre of the pitch and from there he puts a long ball to either of the fullbacks.
Playing Rooney in the behind the striker role in a 4-3-3 formation gives him the chance to play both as an attacker and a playmaker as well. He can go ahead and run into the opponent box in a counter and he can also fall back in attack and give the team a deep lying playmaker option. This sounds the best option that Rooney can provide the team in the coming seasons. Also with the pace that Martial and Rashford offer, it seems more logical to play them upfront and play Rooney behind them. And as the years go by maybe Rooney can get adjusted to life more as a central midfielder/playmaker option. Even though it may sound a long shot right now, still it sounds like one that will benefit both Rooney and Manchester United in the long run.