Like the British weather, Wayne Rooney is unpredictably hot and cold. One week he can be in fantastic form but the next week he can go through a full 90 minutes with nothing more than a whimper.
Occasionally with Rooney, a heatwave comes along, a purple patch of form that sees him go on a goalscoring run. He’s done it numerous times in the past and off the back of an excellent international break with England, he could be coming into one right now.
For that reason, Louis van Gaal should take him away from midfield against Arsenal and put him up front where he can be most dangerous. When Rooney is in a purple patch, you’ve got to maximise it. Playing him in a deep lying central midfield role won’t do that as he’ll be so focused on stopping the opposition that it will curb his attacking instincts. Playing him in the No.10 role would do that also because his prerogative would be to create for others instead of taking chances himself.
Van Gaal needs to give Rooney the canvas to be selfish on Saturday, to take shots himself, to focus solely on finding the back of the net. That’s what Rooney has been all about over the years, simply scoring goals. You don’t work yourself into a position where you could be United and England’s highest ever goalscorer without doing just that.
The necessity for playing Rooney up front also comes through a distinct lack of alternative. Radamel Falcao is once again injured and although Robin van Persie might be buoyed by playing his old club, the fact remains he has been very poor all season. It’s nearly December and he hasn’t found his form yet.
James Wilson has been sprightly when used as a substitute and would certainly turn Per Mertesacker’s statuesque legs to jelly with his pace but Van Gaal doesn’t seem to want to use the 18-year-old from the start just yet.
With Juan Mata and Angel di Maria both more than able to play in the No.10 role against Arsenal, Rooney should be used as a striker, his old position where his best moments in a United shirt happened.