Thursday 21 April 2016

Rooney Develop In Midfield As Van Gaal Solves Hodgson's Biggest Conundrum

When Roy Hodgson continues to finalise his plans for this summer’s European Championships, the dilemma of both if and where to play. Wayne Rooney  is a debate that continues to rumble on. But following his return to the Manchester United  first team, Louis van Gaal may have provided the England boss with the answers he needs regarding his captain.

Following the fine form of Marcus Rashford and the continued development of Anthony Martial, Rooney has arguably returned to the United fold as Van Gaal’s third-choice striker. The Dutch coach – like Hodgson – only ever plays one central forward, and the time may finally have come for Rooney to revaluate his role at both club level and internationally.
Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy have shown enough over the past year that they can replicate their Premier League form for the Three Lions, and though there is no doubt that Rooney will be on the plane to France in June, there are many commentators who have claimed he should not be offered a starting role ahead of the English top-flight’s two top goalscorers.
Against Crystal Palace, however, Rooney showcased enough in a midfield role to suggest that he could make the transition to a deeper role in the near future. It has been suggested on a number of occasions that the former Everton man should look to move back in a bid to extend his career at the top level, and the time for such an alteration is now.
Deployed on the left-hand side of a midfield three, Rooney was given an element of freedom to join in United’s attacks as Morgan Schneiderlin sat in front of the back four, but he showed enough in both directions to suggest he has the qualities to succeed playing behind the strikers. On the few occasions he drove forward with the ball he inevitably created opportunities while he got himself in positions on the edge of the box to have attempts at goal himself.
"I use every player because not every player has a fixed position," said Van Gaal of his redeployment of Rooney. "I use each player where they can give a high contribution in a particular game. It was a midfield role because of the way Palace played. I like the way Rashford has been playing so we had to find a different position for him."
Rashford, Martial and Jesse Lingard all offer pacier options for Van Gaal up front, and playing the youngsters as a trio with Rooney and Juan Mata playing through-balls from midfield could be the first step in free-flowing attacking play returning to Old Trafford. Only a number of fine Julien Speroni saves denied the three strikers from getting on the scoresheet and making the result far more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.

Rooney will come up against far superior midfields for both United and England than this Palace side. Alan Pardew made seven changes to the team that drew with Arsenal as he prepared for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final with Watford, and having all but secured their Premier League safety for another season the Eagles offered very little but the standing ovation Rooney received as he was replaced by Marouane Fellaini late on was no less deserved. As a captain he looked far more comfortable being able to marshal his troops from a central role while his performance level, though not at its absolute best, is far greater than much of what he showed in the first half of the campaign.

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