Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal believes the stage is set for Wayne Rooney to return to scoring ways against his former club Everton, Sky Sports reports.
For two years, Rooney was the darling of Goodison Park – the local lad from Croxteth – after coming through the club’s youth ranks, but the fans’ affection soon drained away in 2004 when he left for United in a record-breaking £30m deal.
Efforts have been made to rebuild the bridges burned by that move – an appearance in Duncan Ferguson’s testimonial this summer certainly helped – but some Evertonians will remain unhappy with the 29-year-old’s exit.
Rooney has scored just two goals in his 10 appearances for United at Goodison Park, but Van Gaal has not given up faith in his captain. “Maybe against Everton his average is not so good, so it’s getting time that he changed that pattern,” the United manager said.
“I don’t know [why he has struggled], that you have to ask Wayne, but I’m a manager who analyses opponents and gives him advice as to how we can disorganise Everton’s defence and then maybe he can score.”
Rooney may have broken Sir Bobby Charlton’s England record and bagged a hat-trick in the Champions League against Club Brugge, but his goals tally in the Premier League remains low.
On the club’s pre-season tour of the United States, Rooney backed himself to find the net over 30 times this year, but after seven league appearances his tally stands at one league goal.
Rooney is no longer Van Gaal’s main man – Anthony Martial now leads the line – but the United manager thinks his skipper is still playing an important role in a deeper position for United. “He’s second striker. Our 10 is a second striker,” Van Gaal added. “That’s what my preference is but sometimes I need another type in midfield.
“We’ll have to see if he continues with that because Wayne can play in different positions. He’s scored for us in the Champions League. For me it is not so important who is scoring. We have scored a lot of goals. “In the beginning your criticism was we don’t score goals but now we’ve scored a lot of goals and you’re picking up an individual player and I don’t like that.
“He’s our captain so that’s very important because his influence is bigger than every other player in our group.” Van Gaal does not believe the burden of captaincy is weighing heavy on Rooney’s shoulders. He said: “It is true some players are affected but I don’t believe [Rooney is], with his personality.”