Rooney has been turning out as a midfield creator for United this season, accommodating Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie in the side.
On paper, such a formation would be Champions League contenders, let alone inevitable Premier League winners, but the situation has not been progressing as well as that in practice. Falcao and van Persie are seemingly suffering coexistent goal droughts, and Rooney has failed to emulate the man many thought he would in the deep role - Paul Scholes.
Scholes’ own transformation from all-energy attacking midfielder to deep-lying playmaker allowed him to retain his core strengths, whilst conserving his energy. He was already a top class long-range passer of the ball, and his reading of the game from an advanced position was second to none.
Rooney has rarely shown any of these traits, despite the occasional game suggesting otherwise. Praised for the rare moments of creative excellence he portrays, the 29-year-old is still in his prime when acting as an out-and-out striker, using his brute force and eye for goal to great effect. His work rate means he drops deep into midfield to collect the ball anyway - providing the extra presence in midfield, but without sacrificing his attacking play.
His best goalscoring seasons have come when playing as the main striker in United’s formation, and it could be realistically suggested that he would register a higher goal tally than both van Persie and Falcao if given free reign in the final third. He is a player who offers a completely different threat than either of the current striking duo, and his presence in the front line could be the catalyst to see either of the duo starting to score freely, as they finally turn out alongside a striker who is willing to link up play.
The reasoning behind van Gaal’s decision to move Rooney into midfield is logical, with the forward always looking to drop deep and link up play between midfield and attack when named in the front line. However, he did that whilst utilising his main strengths to break back into the final third, and his move into midfield has seen him given the same role - but with different instructions. Rather that bridging play using his physicality, he has to do so with incisive, dominating passes that he can just not play, a decision that seems even more crazy with Ander Herrera constantly sitting on the substitutes bench.
With United faltering in the league, and Champions League football needed to secure the top class signings the Red Devils must make in the summer, van Gaal should be looking to return to the basics rather than stick to his egotistical philosophy. If he sees out the rest of the season with Rooney as a forward and secures European qualification, he can purchase the correct players in the summer, and start building again using his preferred style - likely with much greater success.