Wayne Rooney has been ruled out of action for six weeks because of a knee ligament injury. Although this is most certainly unwelcome news for Louis Van Gaal, it also provides the perfect opportunity for young strikers at the club to step up and be noticed.

 

The 2-1 defeat to Sunderland is coming back to haunt the Red Devils in new ways. Their captain and number one striker Wayne Rooney sustained knee ligament damage during the match and has been ruled out of action for six weeks. Manager Louis van Gaal is devastated by the news, as he considers Rooney an integral part of his plans at United.

“He scores a lot of goals so he is very important for us,” Van Gaal is quoted as saying by BBC sport. “We know that but we have to cope.”

Manchester United are now heading into the most crucial part of the season, as they balance their league, cup and European commitments in an effort to bring silverware to Old Trafford. The injury means that Rooney will miss the start of their Europa League knock-out stage campaign and league games against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City.

The next step forward

Rooney’s time out could be a sign of things to come at Manchester United. The English striker is now 30 years old and is nowhere nearly as prolific as he was in his prime. He may have scored five goals in 2016, but a tally of seven goals in the league after 26 games is not good enough. The primary striker of a club like Manchester United should ideally be scoring in excess of 25 goals a season.

Anthony Martial was brought in to share the goalscoring burden with Rooney. But after a bright start, the Frenchman too has just as many goals as the England captain. Although the Frenchman is still very young and shows the potential to grow into a lethal striker, Rooney may be considered past his prime as a centre-forward. This means that the Red Devils are in dire need of an attacking player to break into the first team and potentially go on to take Rooney’s place up front.

Can Januzaj or Keane impress?

The two strikers behind Martial and Rooney in the pecking order are Adnan Januzaj and Will Keane. Januzaj broke onto the scene under David Moyes, scoring some impressive goals — including a brace against Sunderland — but has faltered since then. He did find the back of the net at the start of the 2015-16 season against Aston Villa though, and will be looking to push his case for more starts during Rooney’s prolonged time out.

Will Keane was recalled from a loan spell at Preston North End by Louis van Gaal last month. He was very impressive in the Red Devil’s U21 game against Norwich City in which he scored five goals, but has not had a good chance to make an impact for the Manchester United first team as yet. His first opportunity to do so will probably be against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League on Thursday.