By announcing Wayne Mark Rooney as the new Manchester United captain, manager Louis van Gaal has made the practical and logical choice for the leader of a new era at the club.
It has been a summer of intense optimism at Old Trafford after a season to forget where they finished seventh in the league and set all kinds of infamous records under the departed David Moyes.
With the departure of senior figures like Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra coupled with the retirement of Ryan Giggs, United needed a new skipper at the helm and the feeling is Rooney is an excellent choice.
Rooney joined the Red Devils in the summer of 2004 and has gone on to achieve huge success at the Theatre of Dreams. Even his debut against Fenerbache in the UEFA Champions League was the stuff of the dreams as he notched a hat-trick having endured a delayed start to his United career due to injury.
Since then Rooney has gone on to score 216 goals in 442 appearances, putting him 3rd overall in the Manchester United history line behind Bobby Charlton and Denis Law. He is only 17 goals away from being the second highest scorer in the Premier League behind Alan Shearer, thereby usurping Thierry Henry and Andy Cole if he were to do so.
"Wazza" has scored 40 England goals from 94 appearances, putting him joint fourth with Michael Owen yet requiring only 10 goals to be the undisputed king of the national scoring charts ahead of Jimmy Greaves (44), Gary Linekar (48) and Sir Bobby Charlton (49).
At the prime age of 28, Rooney is perfectly poised to reach those milestones, barring serious injury or illness. But aside from all this, Rooney has constantly carried the team with his relentless drive and appetite for the game.
His zeal for United has often consumed him to the point where he has fallen foul of officials in games but nobody can question his commitment to the cause. It has been often said that a captain should be able to constantly shout, cajole and berate team mates whether the team plays well or not and there were some who felt that Rooney may not execute this in the manner that say, Vidic, Roy Keane or Gary Neville, all past captains could.
But the other feeling is Rooney may well be closest in style of leadership to another former great – Eric Cantona. The enigmatic Frenchman led by his drive, spirit and footballing abilities, if less by vocal means. As long as the captaincy does not affect his on-pitch brilliance, his performances will be the example that the team needs. And don’t expect the former Everton man to be quiet either; Rooney is known for unleashing verbal expletives as a certain David Beckham can testify whilst he was still the England skipper.
Van Gaal is likely to have considered long and hard about transferring Robin van Persie’s role from national to club level, but while such a move may not really have constituted a disaster as said in certain sections of the media (read former United striker Dwight Yorke), for a club of United’s traditions and culture, this would have been quite unusual, as opposed to at a club like, say Arsenal. Not that this is in any way a negative against the Dutchman, but his short history and contribution are not quite at the stage to have him elevated to such a position – for the present anyway. After 10 years, Rooney is well embedded in the traditions of the club and has the achievements, experience and maturity to take the mantle.
Aside from the Dutchman, there were a couple of other notable considerations like Johnny Evans, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick but a captain is a player who regularly plays and is ever ready to transmit the coach’s philosophies into the team and for some reason or another the afore-mentioned 3 have missed large chunks of seasons gone by with injuries and although in Carrick’s case, this is less so as the midfielder is nearer the end rather than the middle or beginning of his career. Fletcher has earned his stripe of being vice-captain through his own toughness and the ability to bounce back from a position where his career seemed to be over.
So as Rooney assumes the mantle of the skipper of the world’s greatest sporting franchise, it is every fan’s prayer that this role invokes and inspires him to give off his best yet and lead the club into a glorious period under an equally ambitious and arrogantly confident manager in Louis van Gaal. More than ever the eyes of the footballing world will rest upon him this season and as long as his temperament is well managed, the skills, goals and all-round performances may well elevate him on to the pantheon of all-time greats like Bryan Robson, Roy Keane and one equally fiery Frenchman by the name of Eric Cantona. For Wayne Rooney it may be a case of falling back on an old cliché: the rest of his career begins now.
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