In Depth

Is Rooney or Van Gaal to blame for Man United slump?

The England star has been mediocre, but no-one else has prospered up front for United since Van Gaal took over

Manchester United manger Louis van Gaal refused to answer questions about Wayne Rooney's performance in the Manchester derby at the weekend, and subsequently reports have suggested that the club are looking to buy a replacement for their out-of-form captain.

However, his short-term future at the club does not appear to be under threat after he was granted a testimonial next year, with proceeds going to children's charities.

But with the England striker out of form and having turned 30 maybe it is time for his role at United to be reassessed.

"If Rooney was dropped – and he knows that he will be dropped if the poor form continues – there would be a furore." notes Andy Mitten of ESPN. "There shouldn't be. He's in his fourth decade; he's allowed to slow down and not play twice a week."

He also argues that Van Gaal's 4-2-3-1 system does not help forwards, and that Rooney is not the only striker to struggle at Old Trafford recently.

"Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez have all been criticised and allowed to leave. There have been other attacking departures, including Nani, Shinji Kagawa, Angel Di Maria and, on loan this season, Adnan Januzaj," Mitten points out. Rooney remains the player that Van Gaal trusts up front in his preferred formation, even if it is hurting the player.

Meanwhile, no-one bats an eyelid when a big money signing likem Memphis Depay, who has hardly shone since arriving in Manchester, is taken out of the firing line.

Rooney's efforts on behalf of the team cannot be faulted, says blogger Chris Winterburn in Metro, who also believes it is tactics that are holding him back. "This is where the problem lies, it is difficult to drop Rooney because of his work rate and his contribution to the team but it is clear something needs to change in United's attack," he argues.

But Rooney's statistics were less than impressive against City, says Matt Dickinson of The Times. A pass accuracy of 55 per cent, zero shots on target, one off target, zero chances created, zero take-ons tell their own story.  "No other top player does such a passable impression of a mediocre one when he is out of sorts," he states.

But he too accepts that Rooney is not entirely to blame. "Van Gaal still has to demonstrate that United's possession-based approach is not too sterile, but too much of this game provided evidence for the prosecution."

Meanwhile, Rooney is also suffering in the glare of the media spotlight. As a striker his performance was statistically only the fourth worst that City have faced this season, notes the Daily Mirror. Saido Berahino of West Brom, and Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo of Watford all failed to muster a single shot or set up a team-mate during their games against City, but they failed to attract the same level of criticism.

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