Former England goalkeeper David James has expressed his concern that Louis van Gaal’s style of management is inhibiting Wayne Rooney.
Much of the football Manchester United have played since the Dutchman’s appointment in 2014 has been predictable and provided a considerable contrast with the attacking focus so regularly seen under Sir Alex Ferguson.
The club’s fans have become increasingly vocal about their displeasure surrounding that style, in which creative talents like Ander Herrera, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata and Antony Martial have been restricted.
However it is Rooney, as captain for both club and country, who has attracted even stronger, more widespread criticism after struggling in front of goal this season.
James played alongside Rooney, who was substituted during United’s 2-0 defeat of West Brom on Saturday, with the England national team from the start of forward’s international career until the 2010 World Cup.
Having so regularly witnessed his talent and the performances he generated under Ferguson when he enjoyed greater freedom, he believes it is wrong to suggest his former team-mate is in decline, and simply believes that Van Gaal is mishandling his career.
“When you look at (Sir Alex) Ferguson at Manchester United – obviously (Rooney) had David Moyes at Everton first – as much as the hairdryer keeps getting mentioned, the team leads the changing room more so than a manager, and Wayne was allowed to be himself because however much he argued or (behaved) in his effervescent way around the changing rooms, his performances would justify his character,” James said.
“David Moyes comes back in, a bit more of an authoritarian, if you like; (Louis) van Gaal seems to be the same, therefore you’re suppressing this enthusiasm.
“Wayne, at 30 years old, there’s no reason why that old Wayne Rooney spark can’t come back. It’s not about him being reckless – it’s about allowing him to have a bit more personality in his performance. Allow him to take the odd liberty.
“That enthusiasm, that love for the game, I saw that in his performances (when I trained and played with him). I don’t know what he does now because I don’t go to Manchester United’s training ground, but he was special. When I do my coaching, I mention him regularly.
“He can play his way back into form.”
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