Van Gaal puts faith in Fellaini

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has revealed he intends to use Marouane Fellaini as a striker this season.

Van Gaal puts faith in Fellaini

United may have enjoyed an unbeaten start to the season, but their form in front of goal has so far 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 account 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 next 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 Champions League play-off against Club Brugge.

“He can play in a nine position and a 10,” United manager Van Gaal 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 Rooney’s tally.

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 became something of a scapegoat for the failed reign of David Moyes, and it was anticipated he would be sold by Van Gaal when he replaced the Scot last summer. But Van Gaal kept faith with the 6ft 4in midfielder and his form was key to the turnaround in the club’s fortunes last winter.

Fellaini 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 team-mates and the manager. I am just looking forward to doing well and scoring some goals.”

Had Fellaini not converted Memphis Depay’s cross in stoppage-time at Old Trafford last Tuesday, United would be sitting on a one-goal lead going into this week’s second leg.

Van Gaal’s team are odds-on favourites 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.”

Meanwhile, Michel Preud’homme believes Brugge will need divine intervention to prevent United from claiming a spot in the Champions League group stage. “Miracles happen sometimes, but they are two goals in front and they are a very professional team,” Preud’homme said.

“To get a miracle, you need to be perfect and you need the other to not play at his best potential. We have a lot of players out, too. If we want to have a chance, we have to be perfect. It will be very difficult, but let’s pray.”

The reason for Preud’homme’s pessimism is clear. As the 56-year-old says, his squad is ravaged by injury with eight players, including the suspended Brandon Mechele, unavailable.

The club’s top striker, Tom De Sutter, who scored 13 goals last term, will complete his transfer to Turkish club Bursaspor tomorrow. It could be the last game for star playmaker Victor Vazquez too as he has been the subject of interest from several Spanish clubs.

“The player has to manage it,” the Brugge coach said of Vazquez, who supplied the assist for the Belgian club’s only goal at Old Trafford, which came off the shin of Michael Carrick.

“We’re in the period of the last week before the end of the transfer period. It’s always the same story each year.”

Not even an early goal will necessarily help swing the tie in Brugge’s favour either, according to their coach.

“This United team can live with pressure,” Preud’homme said.

“I don’t think they’ll have more pressure if we score, but it’s important for our confidence if we score.”

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