Rooney, 30, has been out of action since damaging knee ligaments in the 2-1 loss against Sunderland but stepped up his recovery this week by taking part in two full training sessions.
In his absence, Marcus Rashford has burst onto the scene but van Gaal is clearly looking forward to having Rooney back in action.
“It is very important that our captain is coming back,” van Gaal said.
“He only trained with us for two sessions and then you are not fit to play. That is the big difference. Everyone is thinking Wayne is fit again but it is not like that. He has to build up his capacity to play a match at the level of a Premier League match.”
The imminent return of Rooney sparks one big question for fans – should he come straight back into the starting XI when fit and available?
Rashford’s been brilliant since his four goal haul against FC Midtjylland and Arsenal within the space of a week in his first two appearances and there’s every chance he would be the player who dropped to the bench to let Rooney come back in the team.
Back in the day, a team without Rooney in wasn’t even worth contemplating and he was effectively guaranteed a place in the team when fit but are those days are in the past now. I’d argue so yet I’m aware not everyone will be in that same boat.