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3 Key Power Shifts in Van Gaal's Army Series #1 of 3

#1 The Waning of Wayne Rooney

The Dutchman’s army is being retooled. Louis Van Gaal has made notable changes to his front line. He has finally reversed, at least for now, his decision to make Wayne Rooney his main striker. Rooney has shown that the present iteration of himself is not the player who can have the positional discipline to live on the line, wait for his moment to break into open spaces, mesmerize defenders with clever movement and put in a shift with very long periods without the ball.

You know, like wait for a 45-pass move to mature into a goal scoring opportunity. The United captain is not that type of a player, and quite frankly never was. Rooney lives for the hustle and bustle of the game. He has a frantic need to influence everything, everywhere. If he had free reign to paint up a heat map, he would run out of the bright red hue quite rapidly because of an unrelenting desire to splatter red across the entirety of the canvas. This natural busy body tendency makes Rooney’s race to break United’s scoring record bewilderingly unbelievable, and a truly astonishing feat once reached.

Rooney scores his first domestic goal of the season against Ipswich Town the League Cup.

Last season most observers bemoaned the use of Rooney in deeper roles, the general feeling was his biggest attributes were being wasted that far off the opponent’s goal. The truth is not easily pinned down when it comes to Rooney, yes he is a goal scorer above all things, and there was a time he was best deployed as a striker. Those times have faded with some of his physical attributes, as the Englishman speeds towards the wrong side of 30.

I am not quite convinced that he is currently the best player to play inside the hole right under Martial the usurper with other natural operators such has Herrera and Mata on the team sheet. Anthony Martial the once relatively unknown teenager, propelled on the fuel of his astronomical transfer fee, has burst unto the scene in surprising fashion. One minute Rooney was nudging Schneiderlin, wondering whom the lad was and if he was any good. The next minute the 19 year old is lining up for United as a starter occupying his position.

Van Gaal has opted for youth, potential, excitement, bewildering composure, and above all, speed in the No. 9 position. Rooney has labored there since the season opener against the Spurs and is yet to register a league goal. Martial has 3 league goals in two starts, his first coming in that euphoric 3-1 win against bitter rivals Liverpool. It is rather too early to heap accolades on the most expensive teenager in football, but it is clear to see that he has forced LVG’s hand – decisively. Expect the United boss to rotate Rooney and Martial, with the younger striker trusted to spear head the attack in pivotal games.

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