Forward planning by Rooney

Captain keen to surpass 34-goal season tally as he returns to coveted centre-forward role

SAN FRANCISCO • Wayne Rooney believes being elevated to the role of Manchester United's main striker could allow him to surpass his best season tally of 34 goals for the club.

The United captain has been told by Louis van Gaal that he is to play centre-forward again next season.

Each time Rooney operated in that position, during the 2011-12 and 2009-10 seasons, he scored 34 times in all competitions.

The 29-year-old is confident he can challenge that mark this season: "That was the last time I really played the full season as a striker. All the other seasons I have been up front, then in midfield or out wide so hopefully if I stay up front, then I can get near that again.

"I have no doubts in myself. I have no doubts that I can do that again and I am ready to take on that mantle again and be the one who gets the goals for this team."

BIGGEST DIFFERENCE

Last year I had to line up the players in different positions than what they're used to playing, which is not good. So now for every position I have two players.

LOUIS VAN GAAL, Man United manager, on the dilemma when he first took over

Rooney's overall United tally of 230 goals places him behind only Bobby Charlton, who holds the club record with 249, and Denis Law, who scored 237.

Last weekend, van Gaal said that a "surprise" forward signing could share the goal-scoring workload.

United have been heavily linked with a bid for Barcelona's Spain forward Pedro and Bayern Munich's Germany forward Thomas Mueller but all van Gaal would reveal was that his target is not a player who had been written about in the media. But Rooney is excited to again be the focal point of the attack.

"It is where I like (to be) and I am sure it is where I will play," he said. "It is obviously on me then to score the goals. It is where the manager and myself see my best position.

"Hopefully I can get a good run of games and repay the manager and score goals for the team... I hope to score 20 or more goals again."

He has been asked to play as a No. 10, in central midfield, and in both the wide left and right positions at United, yet he denies being moved around too much.

"I don't think I have sacrificed myself too much over the years," he said. "If the manager wants me to do different jobs, then I will do it."

United's lack of balance last season was a reason why Rooney had to play out of position. But he believes that new signings, particularly in midfield, mean that he does not have to play there in the new campaign.

Van Gaal admitted he was uncomfortable when taking over United last summer due to the make-up of the squad, pointing to how he has pruned 17 players.

The Dutchman feels the Red Devils are now better placed, largely due to four new players - midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger, Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin and full-back Matteo Darmian. They have taken his total number of signings up to 10.

When taking over last close season he had to ask some players to change the positions where they operated. While these included Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia, van Gaal said he was unable to voice his reservations due to a need to offer the best message.

"Yes, I could not say that last year because you have to be always positive as a manager about your selection but there's a difference now," he said.

"We already have four new players and training already on tour with the four new players. But the biggest difference is the balance.

"Last year also in the US tour I had to line up the players in different positions than what they're used to playing, which is not good.

"So now for every position I have two players."

THE GUARDIAN


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2015, with the headline 'Forward planning by Rooney'. Print Edition | Subscribe