LONDON: Wayne Rooney is by far the most talented English footballer of his generation. Striker was the role for which he was born. He is third in England’s all-time ranking of marksmen with 46 goals and third with 225 for Manchester United. In both charts the record target belongs to Sir Bobby Charlton: 49 goals for England and 249 for United.
Rooney has amassed his goals for United though Sir Alex Ferguson sometimes used him wide on the left; he has scored consistently for club and country despite not being a centre-forward but the ‘support’ striker, the man ‘in the hole.’
Louis Van Gaal believes that Rooney, as he grows older, is not a striker of any description. United’s Dutch manager has created yet another issue for dispute by playing Rooney lately in midfield, far from the zone where the 29-year-old has always been at his most dangerous.
England manager Roy Hodgson has said that, for him, Rooney remains a fixture as a striker but Van Gaal has explained that the overall state of his squad demands Rooney operating elsewhere.
Van Gaal said: “I communicate with him, and give him my arguments about why he has to play there, and he accepts that as captain he has to do something for the team.
“I don’t think I have ever heard him complain about it, in fact I think he likes playing in midfield because he is more on the ball. So he enjoys it more.
“The composition of the team is more important than the individual player, I’m sorry for that. In the composition of Mr Hodgson, Rooney is probably giving more contribution to the English team when he is playing in the striker’s position.
“I would not say Wayne Rooney will always be a midfielder from now on because it depends on the formation we use and the form of the strikers, but in the present system I need a right-footed midfield player.”
Ironically Rooney’s latest goal for United, their third in Monday’s FA Cup despatch of Preston, was a spotkick after he had been fouled bursting through the penalty box . . . like a traditional striker.