Gary Neville: Wayne Rooney is now Man Utd's 'silent dominator' under Louis van Gaal
Last Updated: 14/04/15 12:13pm
Wayne Rooney has been turned into a "silent dominator" under Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal of late, says Gary Neville.
The England striker did not score in United’s fine 4-2 win over Manchester City on Sunday, but his work behind the scenes was perfect for Van Gaal’s side, according to the Sky Sports pundit.
Rooney has scored 14 goals for United in all competitions under Van Gaal this season, five goals away from last year’s total, but Neville says it is not all about the goals for the 29-year-old.
His former team-mate said on Monday Night Football: “I came away from the game thinking: ‘Was he anonymous? How did he play? We never mentioned him much during the game.’ He wasn’t really talked about that much.
“Having played with Wayne Rooney for 10 years, having worked with him for England for three or four years, I can say he is a street football player who can chase the ball, wants to be involved and wants to be everywhere on the pitch.
“But I think Louis van Gaal must have him on a lead in training, and says to him: ‘That’s not your position, that’s not what you're there to do’.”
Neville believes Rooney put in a performance of attacking discipline on Sunday for United where he would have once chased every ball.
In holding his position and improving his off-the-ball runs, Neville believes Rooney opened up the play for his team-mates, particularly United midfielders Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Ashley Young and Juan Mata.
“You used to see him charging down channels, dropping into midfield, if he hasn’t had the ball for five minutes you used to see him drop to get it because that’s the type of player he is,” Neville continued.
“I talk about this philosophy and the attacking discipline of Manchester United, and you can tell the story through Wayne Rooney. That is a big achievement by Louis van Gaal.
“To get that player to play like that is a fantastic achievement.
“Sunday was a silent domination of City’s centre-backs. I would think Louis van Gaal will have watched that game back and might think that was Rooney’s best performance for Manchester United under him.
“Everyone who left Old Trafford may have said: ‘Didn’t see much of Rooney today,’ but I think Louis van Gaal would have loved that performance.”
Rooney only had 35 touches during the match at Old Trafford on Sunday, his lowest number in the Premier League at Manchester United.
But Neville insists Dutchman Van Gaal would have seen this as indicative of Rooney’s new role in his 4-3-3 style, which has seen United win their last six games in the Premier League.
“If you look at the touches he had in the game, his average is 75-85 touches a game, he had 35 touches against City. It was his lowest in all his Premier League matches for United.
“But I think Louis van Gaal would have been happiest with him yesterday.
“The fact he held those two centre-backs central, kept those pockets open for Fellaini and Herrera, meant that Young and Mata pulled Zabaleta and Clichy wide.
“I would have thought that was as near to perfect that Louis van Gaal has had at United.”