Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has handed punters a fascinating clue ahead of their clash with Leicester by suggesting there will ‘always’ be a place for Wayne Rooney in his first XI.
The Dutchman, who enjoyed his first competitive victory in charge of the Red Devils against QPR last time out was quoted as saying the following in the Daily Mail:
‘Only the captain has more privileges but no other player has privileges I think. Every player knows that because you see how I manage my teams – my captain shall always play and normally the goalkeeper.’
It’s a bold statement when you also have Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao, two of the more deadly number nines on the face of the earth, to cram into your front two.
So far he has been true to his word, with Rooney one of just four players to have started all of the Old Trafford side’s Premier League games so far.
Rooney has rewarded his manager’s loyalty with the side’s best direct goal-contribution record, two strikes and one assist, and he’s even money to find the net once more against Leicester, having done so in his last two meetings with them while still an Evertonian teenager.
Yet that’s far from the only reason the United and England skipper is that much less omissable than the rest of United’s plethora of attackers.
Of course there is his creativity in the final third, which is unparalleled at the club in recent years.
In three of the last four seasons he has posted more than ten assists, with the two campaigns over the previous quintet (2011/12 and 2009/10) in which he didn’t accompanied by 26-goal plus scoring spikes.
However, he also provides a threat that, despite their glamourous resources, no-one else at the club can quite carry off, namely as the ‘nine-and-a-half’ Brendan Rodgers coined to sum up Daniel Sturridge’s contribution.
Such is the extent, meanwhile, that Falcao comes alive in the 18-yard-box, that playing Van Persie and the Colombian together would likely only further encourage the unnecessary coming deep in search of the ball that has characterised the latter’s performances of late.
Rooney’s industry in behind a line-leader makes him an ideal foil for either, whilst his scoring record when he passes on the creative burden in past seasons has been on a par with anything either of his esteemed colleagues are liable to muster this term.
To this end, Van Gaal’s assertion is really something of a no-brainer.