Louis van Gaal could have made the Manchester United captaincy seem like a small deal, but from the outset the Dutch coach was abundantly clear: this is an important issue and I need to appoint the right man for the job. It seemed to be a straight shoot-out between Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney.
Most Manchester United supporters, during the World Cup finals, must have expected Van Persie to receive the captain’s armband. After all, the prolific striker had been named skipper of the Netherlands national team by Van Gaal back in 2013 and shared his coach’s footballing philosophy.
Van Gaal's search for perfect captain
Van Gaal admitted this was crucial. He was looking for someone who sees football in the same way he does and confirmed, back in May, that Van Persie not only viewed the beautiful game through the same glasses - but also life itself.
“You make a player captain when you have more or less the same philosophy, not only about football tactics but also about life,” the vastly-experienced Dutch coach told reporters. “So I think that's very important. I believe that Van Persie and Van Gaal [have] the same philosophy."
Van Gaal offered Rooney a chance to impress
But one of the reasons Van Gaal is such a hugely successful coach is because he’s prepared to give players opportunities to shine - and no player on the Red Devils’ pre-season tour of the United States impressed him more than Wayne Rooney, who was confirmed as Manchester United’s new permanent captain following Tuesday night’s 2-1 victory over Valencia.
It couldn’t have been an easy decision for the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss - he must have felt a degree of loyally and sympathy towards Van Persie, after all - but he made the right choice, even if the issue has since divided Manchester United supporters down the middle.
Van Persie: Not a natural leader
Van Persie, for all of his qualities as a striker and despite the fact he has captained both Arsenal and the Netherlands in recent years, is not a natural leader.
And although the £24 million Netherlands finished third at the recent World Cup finals in Brazil, Dutch football writer Elko Born believes Van Persie ruined his chances of earning the Manchester United captaincy because of his lack of leadership at the showpiece international tournament.
“Van Persie not being named captain shouldn't surprise anyone,” Born tweeted. “He showed an obvious lack of leadership during the World Cup. [Van Gaal] saw that.
“In practice, Arjen Robben was Holland's captain during the World Cup. [Van Persie] is too individualistic and solitary to be a leader.”
Rooney: Genuine team player
Rooney, on the other hand, is a genuine team player. Having Cristiano Ronaldo at the club certainly helped the England international in this respect.
Rooney appreciated that Ronaldo was a player with an incredible gift - and that he would need to sacrifice himself in order to bring the best out of the superstar Portugal international.
It worked - and the trophies arrived as a result. Ronaldo may have won the 2008 Ballon d’Or - Rooney finished 13th in the voting - but they both ended up with Premier League and Champions League winners’ medals. To Rooney, rather than Ronaldo, this was the most important thing.
Watch: Wayne Rooney express delight over captaincy
Rooney will flourish as captain
He might hail from Liverpool, but earning the Manchester United captaincy was obviously a huge deal for Rooney, who was the only player to publicly speak out about his desire to secure the armband on a permanent basis this summer.
At 28, this is exactly what Rooney needs to help him stay as motivated as possible as he continues through his peak years as a footballer.
A fit, confident and motivated Rooney is an extremely dangerous weapon to possess - and Van Gaal would have been acutely aware of this, hence his eventual - and correct - decision.
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