Robin van Persie is a doubt for Manchester United’s FA Cup fifth round trip to Preston North End on Monday and his absence could see Wayne Rooney up front.
Louis van Gaal confirmed on Friday afternoon that van Persie could miss the game and also hinted he could use Rooney as a striker after the captain was deployed as a defensive midfielder in midweek against Burnley, despite indicating Rooney may be Man United’s best striker.
Rooney’s position as a midfielder dates back to before Christmas and you’d have to stretch your memory back to late 2014 to find out when the last time Rooney played as a striker for United.
Van Gaal has claimed he plays his captain in midfield to add ‘balance’ to the team but Rooney isn’t performing. It’s hampering his attacking threat and certainly lowering any chance of breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record.
Whilst van Gaal will argue Rooney is filling in for injured players such as Daley Blind and Michael Carrick, as well as Ander Herrera and Angel Di Maria over Christmas, it’s painfully obvious Rooney’s talents are being wasted.
So, van Persie being absent on Monday could force van Gaal’s hand and see the United captain return to the position so many fans want to see him in.
Another man who may benefit on Monday night is Herrera. The popular and talented Spaniard still hasn’t started a league game since December but Blind’s injury on Wednesday gave him an hour to impress his new manager, and he did.
Van Gaal praised Herrera post-match and it would only frustrate supporters further if Herrera was once again left out on Monday. That being said, the possibility of James Wilson starting up front is likely given he started against both Yeovil and Cambridge, it’s just a question of whether he starts alongside Rooney or Radamel Falcao.
The Colombian is struggling for form so Rooney alongside Wilson is a distinct possibility. If they do start together, it surely means a start for Herrera too which would be richly deserved.
Fans are eager to see Herrera start in central midfield and Rooney up front. If van Persie is ruled out on Monday, it would be the perfect opportunity for van Gaal to make that happen.