LOUIS VAN GAAL has prioritised buying a creative midfielder this summer as the Manchester United manager is being forced to use Wayne Rooney in the role, with the move potentially affecting Ander Herrera’s future.Van Gaal, whose side are at Preston North End in the fifth round of the FA Cup tonight, has recently switched Rooney from his usual striker or No10 berth to provide United with a dynamic midfield presence who can orchestrate play. Van Gaal sanctioned the £29m purchase of Herrera last summer yet although the Spaniard is also a box-to-box midfielder with a range of passing he has not made a Premier League start since the 2-1 win over Stoke City on December 2. This is despite Michael Carrick, Van Gaal’s first-choice in the position, currently being injured.
Asked if he is choosing to play Rooney there out of necessity, Van Gaal said: “Of course that’s the case. I’m looking for balance and I need it in midfield. The last games I played with Adnan Januzaj and Ángel Di María in the midfield positions. Then you need a certain balance for those kind of creative players. So when you have these creative players and you think that [Radamel] Falcao and [Robin] van Persie are also creative, then you have four creative players. Then you have to look for balance in your team.”
Van Gaal is clear that in the close season buying a midfielder to fill this gap is his No1 focus. “Yes, of course,” said Van Gaal, who also claimed Rooney is happy to play there.
The captain is Rooney is yet to have a shot on target in the league in 2015 and has not scored since Boxing Day. Yet Van Gaal said: “He’s happy. Otherwise he should come to me and say he’s not happy. He never does. He’s always friendly to me. He wants to perform what I want so that’s what I see. Of course when the whole world is writing he has to be in the striker’s position, he will be thinking: ‘Maybe, hey’. He’s human.”
Van Gaal has admitted he may not know his best XI, although countered by saying that is the same of all managers. “That’s always so for every trainer-coach,” he said. “Every week can be another team. But every coach also gives a lot of credit to players and lets them play for a long time.
“You have never the best team because sometimes in training sessions a player shows that he’s fit to play but you give the credit to other players who have been starting.”
Despite the uneven form United are third in the league and victory over Preston puts them in the FA Cup quarter-finals. Van Gaal said:
“Our goal was to be in the first four places. That’s a process of three years. I signed for three years. We are third and have been in the top four for a lot of time. — The Guardian