Manchester United vs Burnley: Louis van Gaal prefers playing Wayne Rooney in midfield to 'balance' his team

United fans showed their frustration during the 3-1 win over Burnley with Rooney yet to register a shot on target in 2015

Paul Hirst
Thursday 12 February 2015 08:38
Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney
Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney

Louis van Gaal believes Manchester United play better when Wayne Rooney is deployed in midfield.

A rocky week for Van Gaal continued on Wednesday night as his United team had to battle their way to an unconvincing 3-1 Barclays Premier League win over Burnley.

United were slow and lacked creativity in attack and Van Gaal admitted he fears the support he has received from the club's fans may be ebbing away.

"I heard the first whistles," the United boss said.

"That is a concern because we are playing for the fans.

"The fans are the most important part of the club.

"They keep the club living and that is very important but they also applauded after the match and always in matches there is 90 minutes, not 45."

In fairness, large portions of the crowd sang Van Gaal's name during the match, but the Dutchman is right to be worried after Wednesday night's showing.

His team were very poor against a Burnley team that was put together on a fraction of the money he has shelled out over the last eight months.

Part of the reason why United were so slow on the attack was the fact that Rooney was pushed into a defensive midfield role in the second half after Daley Blind hobbled off following a clash of heads.

Van Gaal opted to play substitute Ander Herrera and Angel Di Maria as the middle two players in a diamond midfield, with Rooney sitting behind them.

With United so poor up front, moving Rooney - the third-highest scorer in the club's history - into attack would seem a plausible move, but Van Gaal thinks his team play better with Rooney in midfield.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal

Van Gaal said: "I have to look for the better balance and I think until now because of Rooney we have a better balance in midfield.

"I was very pleased how he replaced Daley Blind in the number six position.

"He showed composure and of course he was also today the Rooney that I want to see but he has showed that he can play in every position.

"Maybe he can better play in a striker's position but then I have a problem in midfield."

Van Gaal said Blind had only suffered a "headache" following an aerial clash and revealed Phil Jones, who lasted less than five minutes on the pitch, suffered a knee injury which will be assessed to see whether he is fit for Monday's FA Cup game at Preston.

Against Burnley, there was no sign of the long punts upfield that had been pointed out by Sam Allardyce last weekend.

United are better balanced with Rooney in midfield, says Van Gaal

But Van Gaal, who produced a four-page dossier denouncing Allardyce's "long-ball United" jibe at a press conference on Tuesday, had to rely on his goalkeeper to keep United in the game.

David de Gea saved from Danny Ings' feet in the second half following a mix-up between Smalling and Herrera.

George Boyd and Michael Keane also went close to scoring for the Clarets.

"I thought we were outstanding," Burnley boss Sean Dyche said.

"Everyone in the stadium is probably scratching their heads how we didn't come away from it with anything."


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