Wayne Rooney says Louis van Gaal wanted him to play like £51m Man City player when he was at Manchester United

Wayne Rooney has disclosed that during Louis van Gaal’s tenure at Manchester United, the Dutch manager encouraged him to play in a manner reminiscent of Erling Haaland, even though Haaland was not yet a professional footballer at that time. Van Gaal’s strategic vision for Rooney involved greater involvement in build-up play, a concept Rooney discussed on The Overlap’s Stick To Football podcast.

Reflecting on his time at Old Trafford, Rooney expressed his desire to always be actively engaged in the game, even if it meant sacrificing more goal-scoring opportunities. Van Gaal, upon his arrival at Manchester United, emphasized a tactical shift for Rooney, wanting the center-forward to have 15 or 20 touches per game, similar to how Erling Haaland operates.

During Manchester City’s recent 1-0 victory against Brentford, Haaland had just 32 touches of the ball, as reported by Sofascore. Despite limited involvement, Haaland’s decisive touch resulted in the winning goal, highlighting the striker’s impact on the game.

In the podcast discussion, Jamie Carragher drew parallels between Van Gaal’s vision and Haaland’s playing style, to which Rooney concurred, noting that Haaland indeed operates with fewer touches, creating unpredictability for defenders. Rooney acknowledged the potential psychological impact on defenders, who may feel a false sense of security or heightened anxiety, knowing that Haaland could score at any moment.

Van Gaal’s strategic insight, urging Rooney to emulate Haaland’s playing style, aligns with the idea that a striker with minimal touches can significantly influence defenders’ mindset. The unpredictability and goal-scoring threat associated with players like Haaland create challenges for opposing defenses and open up opportunities for teammates to exploit.


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