Wayne Rooney
Rooney has scored 11 goals this season but has often been played in a deep role. Getty Images

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has been urged to resist deploying captain Wayne Rooney in midfield and play the club's leading scorer in his favoured centre-forward role.

Rooney has netted 11 goals this season but has sporadically been played out of position this term during Michael Carrick's spell out injured and after Darren Fletcher's departure to West Bromwich Albion.

The move has sparked scathing criticism from United fans and the media alike and former striker Andy Cole has become the latest voice to question the move from Van Gaal.

"[Rooney's best position is] as a striker," the ex-United man told Goal.com. "He's a central forward and if the manager trusts him in that position he can score 20 goals.

"He's also playing well as midfielder with his vision, but I believe all supporters want to see Rooney playing in his natural position. His best position is striker."

The form of Tottenham Hotspur forward Harry Kane and Queens Park Rangers striker Charlie Austin, who have 16 and 15 Premier League goals respectively this season, has seen the duo pressurise Rooney's status as England's number one forward.

And according to Cole, the United skipper remains England's primary attacking player but should continue as a number 10 behind either Raheem Sterling or Daniel Sturridge.

"Wayne, of course, Wayne [is England's best striker]! He's a good striker, but he won't play that well as a number 9," he added.

"But he's a good striker and he understands things. He's not a good number 9 because he tends to explore the pitch, but he can still score goals.

"He's having a difficult season, but in the national team with Roy Hodgson it's different. If he's playing as a number 9, he can be better as a number 10 along with Raheem Sterling or Daniel Sturridge."