OPINION: Who should be playing behind the striker?

Rooney, Mata & Kagawa

Some may say our midfield is awful; maybe defensively it isn’t that good. However, I’d say we have some of the best attacking midfielders in the world. It is always hard to decide who to play behind the striker because of the amount of quality each player has.

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney is our number 10, but should he play there? I don’t think so. The way he plays on the field, I personally would play him in midfield. His attacking skills are top class, but at the same time, his defending skills are excellent. Rooney is probably our hardest working player, he tracks back when needed but is also excellent when going forward. For me Rooney possesses everything needed from a player; determination and courage. Last season wasn’t United’s best, but Rooney came out every single game and gave his all, not for himself but for the club. Without Rooney’s goals last season, most of which were scored whilst playing behind the striker, I don’t think we would have been in the top half of the league.

Scoring 19 goals last season and being our top goal scorer (even though he was injured quite a few times this season) Rooney showed the true quality he possesses. Imagine how many goals he could have scored if he was injury free! Since joining United from Everton in 2004, Rooney has managed to score 216 goals, in all competitions. He is just 33 more goals away from joining Sir Bobby Charlton as our all time top goal scorer. When United play 4-4-2, with both Rooney and Robin Van Persie playing up top together, Rooney plays just as well as he does when playing behind the striker.

But does he work as hard? Against some teams, yes, but others, I wouldn’t say so. The one trouble with Rooney tracking back is the area up front that he leaves space. He isn’t the quickest to counter attack and that leaves more work for the wingers. When we play 4-2-3-1, Rooney plays the number 10 role. But does he like playing behind the striker and not being the main man leading the team? Rooney has the quality to play for at least another four years behind the striker, but is that his best position? Personally I think not. I think he should drop back. I see a bit of Paul Scholes in him and who knows? We may have had his replacement in our squad already.

Juan Mata

After Juan Mata signed from Chelsea in January we all expected him to be a massive hit. Scoring six goals in 15 appearances in half a year isn’t so bad for a player settling into a new club. For Chelsea, Mata managed to score 18 goals and assist a further 27, in total he was involved in 45 goals in the same amount of matches, which statistically makes him either scoring or assisting a goal per game. Mata wasn’t always played in his natural number 10 role, he was moved around a lot by David Moyes trying to find a position for him so he could play Mata, Rooney and Van Persie at the same time. However, this didn’t work out for Mata. He was always drifted out either on the left or on the right.

Only towards the end of the season did we see what Mata was actually capable of, but that was only playing behind the striker. With the arrival of Louis Van Gaal, Mata could be played in his rightful position. In the World Cup, Van Gaal played with two strikers, Arjen Robben and Van Persie, with Wesley Sneijder sitting behind them. This could be interesting for United fans. Rooney and Van Persie playing up front together, whilst Mata plays behind them is something I can not wait to see. Mata’s presence on the pitch definitely doesn’t go un-noticed. In my opinion, Mata is a player who must play every game without a doubt, but he needs to play behind the striker. If this means dropping Rooney or even Van Persie then so be it. Mata must play.

Shinji Kagawa

Since the game against Norwich in the 2012/13 season, Shinji Kagawa hasn’t been playing up to his best. Throughout the season, Kagawa was played on the left and sometimes he was replaced by Danny Welbeck. The Japanese international arrived from Borussia Dortmund as a highly rated young talent, but the last couple of seasons, he’s looked very average. Maybe that’s because he was saving himself for the World Cup or maybe because he was played out of position. During one game last season, Moyes played Mata and Kagawa together and that was a massive hit. The creation was just what we are looking for.

However, that only happened once. Kagawa has everything that is needed for a world-class talent, except being able to finish. He can pass, he comes searching for the ball, he finds space and runs into it, but when he’s in front of the goal, it is as if he panics when shooting and puts it wide. Kagawa only managed three assists and didn’t score at all in 18 games last season, whereas Mata assisted in four but also scored six in 15 matches. Shinji Kagawa just simply isn’t the player we need; we have too many of the same sort and unfortunately he is the one with less quality in comparison.

I personally think that Wayne Rooney should be dropped deeper and play as a central midfielder. Juan Mata should play behind the striker and sadly I think Shinji Kagawa should be sold, to save his career. What do you think?

Rooney, Mata or Kagawa? Who do you think should play behind the striker? Does Van Gaal stick with the current number 10’s or does he bring a new face to Old Trafford?

This article was written by Liam Hulme, who is part of our Academy writing team. Please make your comment on this article if you agree or disagree with the comments raised in this article.

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