Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal was delighted with Wayne Rooney’s display in the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace, but admits the form of Marcus Rashford means the captain must settle for a deeper role.
United started with the same 4-1-4-1 system that they used in Saturday’s victory against Aston Villa, with Rooney deployed in a more central playmaking position behind the teenage striker.
Van Gaal insists he was pleased with the way Rooney performed against Palace, and suggested the England skipper will continue to play in a similar position as long as Rashord’s form continues.
“I didn’t say that [Rooney should show more],” he said afterwards. “I said in the first half he played well and in the second half he got tired and that is why we changed him. I hope you quote me in the right way.
“Now he has played 75 minutes so I’m building his capacity for the games, as I’ve done with other players, like Marcos Rojo. He was the player who switched the play and I liked that very much.
“No player has a fixed position. I use a player where I think they can give a contribution in that game. It was more of a midfield role also because of the way Crystal Palace was playing. I don’t want to change Rashford so I have to look for another position for Wayne. He played there also last year. I am very happy with the way he performed.”
Matteo Darmian sealed the win with a stunning goal after forcing Damien Delaney to turn the ball into his own net in the first half, and Van Gaal admitted he has been surprised by the defender’s recent shooting skills in training.
“Darmian was surprising me on Monday in the training session,” he said. “We did a sort of finishing session and he was the top scorer in that time, and we tried to exercise with his left and right foot and he did it also with his left foot, like he did. I am very happy.
“I have told my players after the match that it was a good game and the only remark that we didn’t score too many goals, because it was a 5-0 match, I think. But I am pleased with the way we have played. We have created a lot of chances in the first half and the second half and we didn’t give any away.”
Van Gaal, who revealed that both Rashford and Chris Smalling suffered knocks that will need to be assessed in the coming days, is now eager for his players to continue their winning run in the FA Cup semi-final against Everton.
“We have to work very hard to reach this level because we have a very full season,” he added. “We have played in three competitions. It is unbelievable, much more matches than last year and also a new selection with a lot of youngsters so we have to work very hard to reach this level, and also we have to recover a lot.
“When we survive Everton, I shall give the players a lot of days off.”
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