Louis van Gaal has declared that Wayne Rooney is still the most influential player at Manchester United -- despite his lack of goals.
The United skipper has only scored one Premier League goal this season, against relegation-threatened Sunderland, and has gone almost a year without finding the net on the road in the top flight.
Rooney has only scored one goal in his last 13 Premier League games and United will visit to Goodison Park, where the former Everton player has not struck since 2007, on Saturday.
But Van Gaal launched a staunch defence of Rooney, saying: "He's our captain so that's very important because his influence is bigger than every other player in our group. He's a very important player for me, his colleagues, everybody."
Rooney started the season as United's main forward but has dropped into a deeper role after summer signing Anthony Martial made a prolific start to his Old Trafford career.
Van Gaal used Rooney in midfield for spells last season but said he intends to carry on deploying him as a No. 10.
"He's a second striker," he added. "Our No. 10 is a second striker. That's what my preference is but sometimes I need another type in midfield. We'll have to see if he continues with that because Wayne can play in different positions."
Rooney has struck five times for United in all competitions this season and United have won three of their last four fixtures.
Van Gaal added: "He's scored for us in the Champions League. So for me it is not so important who is scoring. We have scored a lot of goals. In the beginning your criticism was we don't score goals, but now we've scored a lot of goals and you're picking up an individual player and I don't like that."
The Dutchman said he will do his best to help Rooney, who left Everton for United in 2004, end his drought against his old club.
"I'm a manager who analyses opponents and give him advice as to how we can disorganise Everton's defence and then maybe he can score," he said. "That is what I'm doing, not only for Wayne but all the players, especially from the view of the team tactics rather than the individual tactics."
Van Gaal is adamant that Rooney's goals have not dried up because the captaincy is proving a burden, saying: "I think that is true. That is true [for some players] but I don't believe it with [Rooney], with his personality."