Who will be Van Gaal's key player at Manchester United?

Wayne Rooney

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal will assess his squad after the World Cup but who will be his main man at Old Trafford next season?

The 62-year-old Dutch master will arrive to find an array of talent on the books at Old Trafford, and that’s before he even gets the chequebook out to bring in his own additions.

The likes of Robin van Persie, whom he will know well from the Netherlands national team, along with Wayne Rooney, club record signing Juan Mata, youngster Adnan Januzaj and the oft-forgotten Shinji Kagawa could all be the kinds of players a total football coach like Louis van Gaal would love to build his team and system around.

Rooney has been deployed as an attacking midfielder in the last couple of seasons unless of course Van Persie is unavailable but where will Van Gaal want to deploy the England star? The player's creativity and threat in the penalty area via both goals and assists, surely means he is best occupying a second striker role or, as his shirt suggests, the traditional No.10 role and Van Persie will almost certainly be the new boss’ first choice up front.

However, the conundrum that David Moyes puzzled over this year is where to play Juan Mata, if it is assumed both Rooney and Van Persie are fit and available. The Spaniard is one of the most technically gifted and creative playmakers in the world but if Rooney occupies the central attacking role behind the striker, Mata may have to be deployed wide or in central midfield where he is less effective, unless the boss plays two strikers up front in a more traditional 4-4-2 formation in which Mata could play behind the front two.

That could certainly be an avenue worth exploring to ensure United get the best out of their three best players but the on-field relationship between those three will surely be a key to a successful Manchester United next term.

Should a player like (or similar to) Toni Kroos come in, for example, then you have even more top players to accommodate – no player of that quality is going to want to sit on the bench and, on that note, what does the future hold for Kagawa? He has yet to fulfill anything like his potential at United since he arrived as one of the most highly-rated playmakers at Borussia Dortmund – will Van Gaal consider him surplus to requirement or will the new coach be the one to finally get the best out of him? And, if so, where? On the wing?

The new manager’s formation has changed wherever he has been and he describes himself as flexible in that regard – he used a 4-3-3 with Ajax, a 2-3-2-3 with Barcelona and a 4-4-2 with AZ so he could be intending to juggle his tactics around but, in the Premier League, I suspect he’ll want to dominate the midfield, as Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal have this season so I wouldn’t be surprised if he used a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1 with the Red Devils.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 4-2-3-1 that comprised a line up such as:

                                                                    De Gea

                                                 Rafael   Jones   Evans   (Left Back)

                                                               Carrick   Mata

                                                Valencia       Rooney         Januzaj

                                                                  Van Persie

Overall, I would expect Van Persie to be considered his most favoured player but you simply cannot deny Rooney is the engine of United and I suspect that will remain the case under Louis van Gaal.

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