Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has revealed he intends to use Marouane Fellaini as a striker this season.
United may have enjoyed an unbeaten start to the season, but their form in front of goal has been far from successful.
United have scored just twice in three league matches, and one of those was an own goal by Kyle Walker. Wayne Rooney, who has failed to score in 10 matches, and Javier Hernandez are yet to open their accounts this term while James Wilson is yet to feature in the first team.
Despite being linked with a number of targets, van Gaal insists he does not need to sign a striker before the transfer window shuts on Tuesday. That can in part be explained by his plan for Fellaini, which was revealed on the eve of the second leg of United’s UEFA Champions League playoff against Club Brugge.
“He can play in a nine position and a 10,” the United manager said.
“He can also play at six and eight, but this year he shall play more at nine and 10 because there we have other players.”
Fellaini’s height and strength make him ideal for the role of lone frontman, but he only scored seven goals last season – half the total of top scorer Rooney. The Belgian scored a key stoppage-time header to give United a 3-1 advantage over Brugge last week, however, and is keen to play up front if his manager believes that is the best place for him.
“In the past I have played number 10 and number nine sometimes so I can play there and help my team-mates and my team,” Fellaini said.
“It is different to play midfield and striker but I enjoy all the positions I can play.”
Fellaini, having just finished a suspension incurred at the end of the last Premier League season, has yet to feature in the 2014-15 league campaign.
The Belgium international had became something of a scapegoat for the failed reign of former United manager David Moyes, and it was anticipated he would be sold by van Gaal when the Scot was replaced last summer. But van Gaal kept faith with the 6-foot-4 midfielder, and Fellaini’s form was key to the turnaround in the club’s fortunes last winter.
The £27.5 million signing is glad to have put his dark days at Old Trafford behind him.
“Everyone knows my first season was difficult but it is the past,” Fellaini said.
“Now I look forward. Last year I did quite well. I want to continue like that.
“I know my teammates and the manager. I am just looking forward to doing well and scoring some goals.”
Van Gaal’s team are odds-on favorites to progress to the group stages, but the 64-year-old has told his squad they must not think the tie is already over. The fact that Brugge overturned a deficit to defeat Panathinaikos 4-2 on aggregate in the last round should be treated as a warning, according to the United coach.
“They won against their Greek opponent 3-0 so they are capable to do that with the support of the fans,” van Gaal said.
“I don’t think my players shall take it easy.”
Van Gaal being van Gaal, qualifying for the group stages is the bare minimum he expects.
At his pre-match press conference, the Dutchman spoke with pride about winning the Champions League with Ajax 20 years ago. That year Van Gaal deployed teenagers like Patrick Kluivert and Clarence Seedorf alongside seasoned professionals like Danny Blind and Frank Rijkaard to devastating effect.
Ajax upset the odds to beat AC Milan in the final, and this year van Gaal thinks he has a squad of a similar blend.
“Yes, I believe in that. I believe more in the mix than players only from 27 to 34,” he said.
“We won the final with 18 and 19 year-olds but also with players like (Manchester United veterans Michael) Carrick and (Bastian) Schweinsteiger.”
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