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‘Rooney was over the hill’ – Van Gaal takes aim at Man Utd legend despite making him his captain

12:43 EAT 03/06/2019
Wayne Rooney Manchester United 2016-17
A former manager at Old Trafford made the Red Devils' all-time leading scorer central to his plans, but claims a player he inherited was already done

Wayne Rooney was “over the hill” by 2014, says Louis van Gaal, despite the former Manchester United boss making an iconic figure his captain.

A Dutch tactician handed the armband to a talismanic presence upon taking the reins at Old Trafford.

He would see Rooney deliver 29 goals across two seasons, as he closed in on the mark of becoming the Red Devils’ all-time leading scorer.

Van Gaal was, however, never the England forward’s biggest fan, telling The Guardian of a player he inherited: “I’m sorry but he was over the hill. But in spite of that he was one of my best players.”

Quizzed on why he made Rooney skipper, Van Gaal added: “You can say nothing about his professionalism as a player in the training sessions or on a pitch.

“Outside the environment of the training pitch and the stadium is different. I made him my captain because I want to control that life outside.”

Most of the players that Van Gaal considers to have been up to standard during his time with United are those that he acquired.

He admits that “David de Gea has done fantastically”, but said of those he rates as the best he had at his disposal: “This is significant that I have to think a lot.

“[Luke] Shaw was starting very well but he was kicked out [badly injured] by PSV. Shaw was above average. [Ander] Herrera was above average. He started not so well but he became more important for the team because of his inspiring behaviour and coaching qualities.

“I think that overall Daley Blind was my most consistent player with high qualities for building up the play. [Juan] Mata was also a quality player with a lot of creativity and I was very happy with him because we had a big lack of creative players.

“That’s why we played that, in your eyes, ‘boring football’. We did not have too many creative players to increase the tempo of the ball and to use more vertical passes. But it was better than parking the bus, I think.

“We played there [points to the opposition half]. We were mostly always better than our opponents, but, when your opponent is parking the bus, you need creative players.

“That’s why I allowed [Angel] di Maria and [Memphis] Depay to come because they were creative players and I think a team needs at least three or four creative players to break down those opponents.”

Van Gaal added on the problems he faced in bringing the required quality in: “In scouting players, Manchester United don’t have the organisation to deliver the best players in my opinion.

“Then with the education of players, you cannot say that the education of Manchester United is very good. How many players are coming through?

“With Manchester United, you have a fantastic performance department and that is under the guidance of the doctor. But this performance department needs also the guidance of an experienced technical director.

“You have to use that department not only for the first team but also intensively for the youth education.

“Then young players are more educated in the philosophy of Man United and the big step to the first team is much easier. These are the important aspects that you have to develop as a technical director.”