MANCHESTER, England — Wayne Rooney's successful stint as Manchester United's main striker is set to be cut short, with the England captain likely to drop back and play as a holding midfielder in Saturday's Premier League game against Chelsea to solve an injury crisis.
Daley Blind (ankle) and Michael Carrick (calf), United's two options as holding midfielders, will both miss the game because of injury.
"I don't have many choices," United manager Louis van Gaal said, when asked if Rooney would be playing in defensive midfield.
Rooney played in midfield earlier this season as a stop-gap measure but has been in superb form since returning to his usual position as striker in mid-February, scoring six goals in nine games.
Rooney's form has been a key factor behind United's run of six straight league wins that has lifted the team to third place, a point behind Arsenal and eight off Chelsea.
A seventh win in a row would keep alive the title race but United's hopes have been hit by injury, with its defense devastated by the absence of center backs Marcos Rojo (adductor), Phil Jones (ankle) and Jonny Evans (suspension). Blind has been playing at left back recently, so he has to be replaced, too.
"It's the worst scenario," Van Gaal said.
If Rooney plays in midfield, it may mean a recall for Robin van Persie, who has been out for two months with an ankle injury.
"This is the first week he's trained with the first team, but maybe we have to think about him," Van Gaal said.