United’s Best Formation: Play Rooney in the Midfield

Posted: Monday, March 14, 2011 by Kratik in

One position that Manchester United fans want Sir Alex to invest in is the position of a creative midfielder. It is a position – behind the striker - that is more famously known to the United fans as the Paul Scholes’ position.

With Ferguson content in playing Scholes as a holding midfielder, United have lacked a player who could play as an attacking midfielder, aiding the strikers. Anderson - once marked ‘the next Ronaldinho’ - was signed in 2007 as a replacement for Scholescy but hasn’t shown the potential that he once promised as a teenager at FC Porto.

Saturday, March 13: Manchester United beat Arsenal to march on to the semi-finals of the FA Cup. The man who played in the Scholes’ position and in the heart of United’s midfield was United’s last season top scorer - Wayne Rooney. Rooney netted in 34 goals for United last season but his dip in goal scoring form has been under enormous scrutiny as he bagged only four goals this season.

However, Rooney performance and overall play against the gunners on Saturday was acknowledged and well appreciated. It was probably his best performance of the season, so far. Rooney’s commanding display that included him working hard going forward and rushing back on various occasions to help out the defense, leading to United dominating midfield for certain periods in the game. His role in the center of midfield also provided an additional support for O’Shea and Gibson, who in reality, went missing for several minutes in the game. Wazza playing in Scholes’ position, with all his energy and pace also made Manchester United look like a better counter-attacking unit.

So, my point is - why not play Rooney in behind the two strikers, supporting them, thereby, providing cover for the midfield and letting him occasionally burst into the box.


1. Hernandez’s form: Chicharito, the green eyed Mexican has been in red hot form having scored ten goals in 20 appearances in his first season at Old Trafford. Hernandez’s blistering pace and his partnership with Rooney has seen United play better than they have ever played this season. He has also combined well with Berbatov – game at Blackpool comes to mind - mark of a quality player in the making. Chicharito’s darting runs forward beating the offside trap would be aided by Berbatov playing alongside and Rooney in a supporting role. Thus, leading him to have more chances of scoring goals.

2. Berbatovs netting goals: Having scored 19 goals in 33 appearances, Berbatov is the leading goal scorer in the premiership. He lacks consistency, agreed. But to achieve consistency, what he also needs is suitable game time. Using him as a substitute and asking him to come on at 75 minutes is just wasting his talent. It took him two complete years and now that he has finally found his touch at Old Trafford, United must play him and not wait for him to drive himself out of form again. The problem with Berbatov though, is that he prefers to play off the striker. Thus, he can’t play with Rooney as they play in exactly the same position. But this season has suggested that with Rooney on the pitch, Berbatov seems a better player. Thus, play Berbatov upfront with Hernandez, with Rooney supporting the front two.

3. Overall balance of the team: With Anderson out for the season and Carrick prone to making blunders now and again, Rooney alongside Darren Fletcher/ Paul Scholes can do a brilliant job. Rooney’s work ethic has always been one of the reasons that has led to him be a fan favourite. Rooney has been marked as a man who “plays with his heart on his sleeve”. Apart from Fletcher, United has been struggling to find a central midfielder since the time of Roy Keane, who can play with an everlasting energy and provide the team with a mammoth work ethic that a central midfielder must possess. Rooney is also a perfect mould to play as a box to box midfielder. Thus, Rooney fits the bill perfectly. How many times over the years has he sprinted to the opponents D carrying the ball over 70 yards and then, come charging back to retrieve possession for United? Often enough to suggest that he is one perfect for that position.

4. Relieves Pressure: The press has scrutinized Rooney recently, branding him “overrated” after he has been unsuccessful in achieving his feats of last season. Playing him in a deeper role would take that pressure off Rooney of scoring 30 goals each season. We all know how good a player he is and according to me, he will get goals irrespective of where he plays. Cristiano Ronaldo did it during his time at United, so, why not Rooney. Rooney for sure can get 30 goals a season playing him behind the strikers.

Thus, according to me, Rooney must play in Scholes’ position – CAM. It will be give United a better system to play with. A system that will help United be more attack minded in their approach; be stronger while defending and more lethal while counter-attacking. Thereby, it will allow Manchester United to dominate midfield in most games. What it will also do is, give Rooney a freedom to float anywhere on the pitch.

Rooney running behind the strikers and supporting Hernandez and Berbatov will rectify United’s problem – lack of a creative midfielder.

The best line up according to me:

Van Der Sar (GK)

Rafael/O’Shea (RB) Vidic (CB) Ferdinand (Smalling if injured) (CB) Evra (LB)

Valencia (RM) Fletcher (CM) Rooney (CAM) Nani (LM)




  1. Hey Kratik,

    Must say you have quite a nice blog! I should be visiting your blog more too often I guess, given that I could use your valuable insight & widen my horizon...

    Onto the main subject - Rooney has no doubt shown some good displays as the free roaming player behind the striker, as also seen vs Arsenal. You talk about Scholes - there can no other like him of course! But let's rewind our minds back to the 90s. Scholes used to play much forward than what he does today, obviously limited now by the factor that age has caught up with him.

    But I have to agree that Rooney can actually fill the void, soon to be left by Scholes. Rooney is a much under-rated passer, he is actually very very good! Those curling passes across the field can be only matched to an extent by Fletcher, who keeps improving with each passing day. But the million dollar question is - can Rooney do that consistently? Will he be able to score as frequently as we know him best - 20 goals a season? And is this indeed the time to experiment when there are just 2 months left? Wouldn't it be a lot better to try going on with a different strategy that masks this problem to an extent & then we go and buy a good creative CAM?

    Also you get Rooney in midfield, what about Carrick? The guy has signed a contract extension this month with the club. So obviously he has to be somewhere in SAF's plans. I believe we need him immensely as he acts a shield in front of our back four & can intercept passes really well. And then, he's a pass master!

    As regards Chicharito, it may seem a bit unfair that he has to sit on the bench inspite of the fact that he has adapted life in the PL like a duck takes to water. But even in '99, we had this great quartet of strikers in Yorke, Cole, Sheringham & Solskjaer. Today, we have Rooney, Berba, Owen & Chicha. It's always safe to have quality on the bench...


  1. Kratik: Great analysis, and I'll tell you a small world story. Before I read your comment on my blog this morning, I was reading through my RSS feed, saw your article (without knowing you wrote it), and Retweeted it to my followers! Nicely written, well argued, and I agree with the premise. Keep up the good work!

  1. Kratik says:

    @Abhinav Mate, your blog is one of the best I have ever seen. Really awesome. I know Scholescy started in playing career playing more upfront than in the midfield. But moving him to the AMF position did wonders. The same can happen with Rooney.
    However, my article was written for the remainder of the season. For the next season, I'm sure we'll have Anderson back, so, Rooney can move back to his orignal position upfont. I know Anderson can't play supporting the front two but playing him does provide us enough quality alongside Fletcher to dominate any game.Thus, we might play our conventional 4-4-2 formation.

    We might also sign Mario Goetze next season, who is super quality. So, you never know.

    But for the remainder of the season, it might actually work.

    About Carrick, I like him. I think he gets too much of unnecessary stick. People forget that he was called the 'Mr. undroppable' in is first two seasons at OT.

    What I am saying is that we must give this a try, you never know if it works.

    Seeing his performance against Arsenal, people wouldn't bet against him playing that role.
    About him scoring that many goals, we have to wait and see and then know what happens.

  1. Kratik says:

    @fairlieonfootie you maintain one helleva blog!
    absolutely brilliant.
    Thanks a lot :)

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