Rooney's back in his favourite position
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
MANCHESTER United manager Louis van Gaal has saluted the leadership of Wayne Rooney, as the Dutchman prepares to reward the Red Devils captain by playing him in his preferred role of centre-forward.
Rooney was handed the captain's armband by van Gaal in August, during his first season in charge at Old Trafford, and the England striker's performance in the role made a lasting impression on the Dutchman.
"I could not have expected more," van Gaal told reporters on Monday, as United prepared for the second game of their United States tour against the San Jose Earthquakes.
"I think he's a great captain. Better than I had expected. He is fully accepted by the players and that's also very important, because I can choose the captain but the players decide."
Rooney spent a frustrating season at United last year being deployed in various positions, from midfield, out wide or as a withdrawn striker.
Now, van Gaal plans to give the Englishman an opportunity to nail down his favoured starting position as an out-and-out centre-forward.
"I've listened to you and that's why," van Gaal joked to journalists on Monday, when asked to explain his decision. "I think you have more knowledge than I, so now Rooney is there."
The captain, who led the line in a 4-2-3-1 formation for 45 minutes against Club America in Seattle on Friday, is relishing the chance to stake a claim on the striker's role.
"My best position, and I have always said it, is as a striker, getting into the box," he said. "And the two seasons I have really done that as a lone striker have been my two best goal-scoring seasons.
"It is where the manager and myself see my best position.
"Hopefully I can get a good run of games and repay the manager and score goals for the team."