Another Premier League game, and another game without a goal for Wayne Rooney.
Despite the hat-trick he scored against Club Brugges in the Champions League last week, it is still now ten Premier League games without a goal for Rooney, but is it actually all his fault?
You obviously can’t say it isn’t completely’s Rooney’s fault, there are other factors – one being Louis van Gaal’s preferred system.
This season van Gaal has moved Rooney from the deeper number 10 role into a number 9 role, where the goals were supposed to flow, but it hasn’t’ quite worked out like that so far.
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The 29-year-old striker, who last scored in the Premier League in April, has looked sluggish and far too slow to play up front alone. However, he is a victim at United as he is fielded in a system that leaves him too isolated and their slow build up play doesn’t suit Rooney’s game either.
van Gaal has settled on this 4-3-3 formation with Memphis Depay on the left, Juan Mata on the right and Rooney down the middle. He gets his wide players to keep wide and keep the width to create spaces for his midfielders in the middle, though the downside to this set up is the main striker, and in this case the England captain, is left quite isolated.
He needs that support. He isn’t a target man sort of striker, he can play up front as a centre forward but he needs players to bounce the ball off and link the play with cute passes and subtle bits of movements.
It isn’t as if United can’t provide that service either. The likes of Memphis or Mata are the perfect sort of players for Rooney to link with, but he isn’t given the chance to connect with the aforementioned pair. If Mata was deployed behind the England man, he has that vision needed to find Rooney’s movement, whereas Ander Herrera, who was given that role, doesn’t quite have that vision he needs.
However, Rooney is being subjected to rather hopeful service he is being given at the moment, from crosses into the box. He can’t score goals like that, or at least he won’t score as much as usual. It isn’t his strength, and that is why he has struggled for goals this season so far.
The system does need to change if Rooney is to flourish for United again. The two holding players mean that there is a lack of an attacking midfielder supporting Rooney, as Mata is being forced out wide.
Rooney loves to get on the ball and show what he can do, but in this system it is difficult for him to do that as he has to occupy the centre halves rather than link the play.
The system limits Rooney and despite his best efforts, until it changes, his scoring returns won’t start improving.