Wayne Rooney will help Man United more as a striker than a midfielder
It was strange to hear manager Louis van Gaal lament about the absence of a 20-goal-a-season striker in the Manchester United ranks. Wayne Rooney has achieved that number four times in his career, so the Dutchman was wasting the England international's talents by playing him in a midfield role for most of this season.
Seeing Rooney score goals as a centre-forward again could be the best thing to happen to Manchester United this season.
Honestly speaking, there are many better midfielders at Old Trafford than Rooney. The decision to play him in the centre of the park in recent months was because he was the face of the club, and United couldn't justify dropping their talisman to their global supporters and partners.
Radamel Falcao's goal drought and Robin van Persie's poor form and ankle injury sustained at Swansea have helped to reinstate England's all-time third-highest scorer to the position which best suits him. And almost on cue, he scored two times against Sunderland, the second of which was a classic poacher's finish -- and this came a few hours after his manager cried out for a 20-goal striker.
United were lucky to get three points last week at Newcastle, though, and were gifted the winner by goalkeeper Tim Krul. Rooney should have scored in the match and he needs to step it up a notch as the next three games are vital for Manchester United in determining whether this season will be deemed a success or a failure.
After Monday's FA Cup quarterfinal against Arsenal, there are Premier league clashes against Tottenham at home and old enemy Liverpool away. Should Rooney score in those two games, he could very well open up daylight between United and two of the club's main competitors for a top-four finish this season.
United's slow transition from midfield to attack is the main reason behind Falcao and Van Persie failing to fire.
At the beginning of the season, this was not a major problem, as Angel di Maria began in top form. But with Di Maria going off the boil, United have looked slow and ponderous with little imagination. By the time the centre-forwards receive the ball, they are cornered by opposition defenders. Having to operate in crowded areas is not easy, even if you are a Rooney or a Van Persie.
Van Gaal must ensure that he picks the right midfield combination to string together quick passes and play the ball in the park. He should continue with these players even if he gets a couple of bad results along the way.
Chelsea are leaders this season because Jose Mourinho has ensured midfield continuity, which has enabled his players to know each other better and to come away with something, even when they are having a poor game.
Great players make the most out of their chances. Should Rooney continue to rediscover his scoring form, the supporters will start backing the club more.
One of the key features of United during my playing days was that we induced fear in rival players and fans because of our supporters. The battle is half won then and there.
That's why the club need Rooney scoring goals as a striker and not playing as a converted midfielder.
Paul Parker, who won two Premier League titles with Manchester United and represented England at the 1990 World Cup, is a Singapore-based coach.