Why Van Gaal Should Reinvent Rooney As A Midfielder To Accommodate Falcao


Manchester United's gluttonous transfer window has answered some big questions, in terms of the club's willingness to finance its salvation and Ed Woodward's ability to get a job done. But it's also asked some big ones.

Some of the signings need no explanation. For example, United could have done with three Ander Herreras. One will have to do. 

Luke Shaw, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo might look like an aggressive reaction to the departures of Patrice Evra and (ahem) Alex Buttner, but the reality is all three are multidimensional. Blind and Rojo can also sit on the left of a back three, with Blind's versatility stretching to defensive midfield if needed, ala Philipp Lahm.

As for Angel di Maria, the Argentine's ability to inject momentum and creativity into United's attack fills a desperate need, and his arrival more than compensates for Danny Welbeck's exit to Arsenal - in pure ability at least (the shame being United lost a local prospect with potential).

Five deals down, and all is clear. The one that has everybody talking, however, is the arrival of Radamel Falcao from Monaco.

Can signing a world-class striker ever be a bad move? The simple answer is no, unless you're the player jettisoned when it happens.

In the case of United, the player a lot of people are pointing to is Robin van Persie, who has looked as blunt as a spoon in his first two starts under Louis van Gaal. At 31, Van Persie stands accused on being a striker on a downward trajectory - causing us to wonder if he'll ever recapture the form that delivered 26 Premier League goals in his first season at Old Trafford.

Asked to pick their best United starting XI, post-transfer window, a surprising number of United fans and journalists alike are going for a team without the Dutchman in it.

This seems a brutally fickle assessment of Van Persie, whose goals and influence helped drive an average Sir Alex Ferguson team to the title. Are we really to believe he's past it at the ripe old age of 31?

I'm not buying it, and I'm certain Van Gaal isn't either. What we're dealing with is a highly gifted player being eased back into the fold by a manager who values him highly - the same manager who made Van Persie captain of his Dutch team. The same manager who said in May that Van Persie and he shared the "same morals and philosophy".

Regardless of Falcao's arrival and the fact he's a nailed-on starter in the No.9 shirt, I still think Van Persie gets the nod in the Premier League every time he's fit. Van Gaal will play the two together, with Van Persie the focal point and Falcao playing the roving assassin.

Di Maria, coming in from the left, would complement the pair expertly - adding his searing pace, real incision in his running and some of the best link play on the planet to mesh the three together.

Antonio Valencia, Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj all provide options on the right, depending on the need and the formation.

But where does Rooney fit in? Many have pointed out that a club captain can't be dropped; more important is the fact that Rooney, with his immaculate ball-striking, vision and intelligence, more than deserves his place in the starting line-up.

The question is where to accommodate him? The answer, and we've been over this before, is as a midfield playmaker atop a diamond. If Van Gaal plays Herrera or Blind behind him, Rooney would be freed to orchestrate United's attacks and have the riches of Di Maria, Falcao and Van Persie making runs ahead of him.

Put simply, the days of Rooney's pure physicality marking him out are gone. The streetfighter striker we met as a teenager has punched himself out, and we're left with a player whose pure technique is his most valuable tool. Why not put that technique to use in an area where United could badly use some? 

They'll be those who say Ferguson tried it and it just didn't work. I say try it again, and this time sell it Rooney as his best path back to a player we might yet believe in as world-class again. At 28, there's still plenty of time for Rooney to master the role and avoid becoming the attacking option Manchester United no longer rely on.

Van Gaal likes a challenge, and what greater challenge than reigniting the spark in Rooney and producing the ball-playing midfielder he just couldn't buy this transfer window?

With Rooney in midfield, here's a possible United side to face QPR. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts.

(3-4-1-2) De Gea; Jones, Evans, Rojo; Valencia, Herrera, Rooney, Blind; Di Maria; Van Persie, Falcao

Man United are 2.10 to finish in the top four - bet now