Football managers are perennial optimists, preferring to focus on the positives to alleviate any pressure, so let’s get those positives out the way.
Manchester United have won both of their league matches. They will sit atop the Premier League at least until 5pm on Saturday, and are yet to concede a goal. Louis van Gaal is not under contract to play in a certain style or with any level of elegance. As we said so often about Chelsea last season, only the result is king.
Van Gaal will also be contented by his match-winner. “He showed in preparation some good things and I want to try him in his favourite position: No.10,” the Dutchman said before kick-off. Adnan Januzaj responded by ending a drought of 1,169 Premier League minutes on his first league start since February. Having been superbly found by Juan Mata, the Belgian made Micah Richards look foolish before scoring by the aid of a large deflection. Are United going to deal purely in fortunate goals this season?
….I can stand it no longer; we have to talk about Wayne Rooney. He is the elephant in this opinion piece. I won’t be as cruel as to mean that anything other than metaphorically.
Van Gaal has been vocal in his insistence that, following the departure of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao, Rooney would be the man to lead United’s line. That view was repeated on Thursday.
“[Javier] Hernandez is second striker [back-up] to Wayne Rooney. He knows that,” Van Gaal told reporters at his press conference. The Mexican has moved from being United’s fifth-choice forward (and out on loan) to their second. Rooney is not just Van Gaal’s main man, he’s at the front of an inauspicious queue.
In response, there were relevant (and voiced) concerns about Rooney’s ability to spearhead United’s attack in four different competitions. He may only turn 30 in October, but Rooney has played over 650 career matches and been a regular since he was 17. As I wrote last month, Manchester United’s captain is also their difference-maker. His form and United’s are entwined with each other, the defining factor in determining in which position between first and fourth United finish.
If that proves true, Van Gaal must be a worried man. Rooney was terrible against Aston Villa, truly appalling in patches. During the first half he registered no shots, no crosses and had 23 touches; almost half of those made you wince.
When Rooney is good he is very, very good, but when he’s bad he is dire. At times he looked reminiscent of Fernando Torres in Chelsea-mode, clearly interested but playing as if weighed down by the pressure growing with each misplaced pass. There were concerns about Rooney’s engine this season, but he is struggling to even start the car.
Things did not improve after the break. Rooney will enter the third weekend of the season still looking for his first shot on target of the season. He has also touched the ball only three times in the opposition penalty area in his 180 minutes of action.
Furthermore, Rooney last had more than one shot on target in a Premier League match on February 28, and has done so once in 2015. Are these really statistics on which to place so much public faith?
“It is true,” said Van Gaal in February. “Robin van Persie cannot deny it, Falcao cannot deny it and Rooney is not playing there much anymore. At this moment, we don’t have a striker who scores 20 goals.” On this evidence, the cupboards are still bare. Van Gaal must ask Ed Woodward to dig into his pockets again.
In Hernandez and Rooney, Van Gaal has two strikers who thrive alongside a partner, but who look lost on their own. Pedro is the obvious target but started for Barcelona on Friday evening; there is also talk of a Manchester City bid. It’s a question appropriate for numerous Premier League managers, but why has this not been sorted out earlier?
“I don’t know if I want to buy a striker,” Van Gaal said on July 22. Three weeks later, the Dutchman should have all the evidence he needs. Whether it is labelled as back-up to, or support for, Wayne Rooney, the conclusion remains the same. Manchester United need another forward option; need has become desperation.
@masteradvocate, go on then I’ll take that last post on and answer as best I can. Don’t get upset, I’m only countering your opinion with mine. A) being the captain is a huge responsibility and you’re right, it invites scrutiny, but doesn’t remove responsibility from the other players in the side. he whole side has been lackluster from an attacking perspective. Exclusively needling Rooney for that is being deliberately selective. B) I don’t recall any quotes at all where Wayne Rooney has called himself world class. You do yourself a disservice with this kind of rubbish because it neither aides your argument, nor does it undermine Rooney himself. It’s a nothing-statement. C) What he’s paid doesn’t change any of the above (not that any of it so far has any weight to it……). Assuming he’s just a human being (which he is), he cannot play entire teams on his own, and removing him from the starting XI doesn’t have any impact on what he’s paid. D) – He’s not our only striker at all. We have Javier Hernandez and James Wilson in the first team squad, not to mention Memphis Depay as well. All three are, or can be strikers. E) Wayne Rooney averages a goal every other game for club and country, regardless of where he’s been played on the pitch. He has a proven track record of scoring goals in a side that plays well, which is a prerequisite for any striker to do well. To describe his career to date as “dire” is as wide of the mark as it’s possible to be. The floor is yours…………