On the face of it, Manchester United’s two star players couldn’t have endured more contrasting fortunes at this summer’s World Cup so far.
Robin van Persie has reinforced his position in the hearts of Holland fans, thanks in no small part to his sensational equaliser against Spain in their opening group game, whilst Wayne Rooney has found himself rounded on by the British media for his failure to inspire match-winning performances against both Italy and Uruguay. But whilst the former may go on to achieve the ultimate international honour having already qualified for the knockout rounds, whilst the other packs his bags for an early flight home, it won’t be too long before the two are being mentioned once more in the same breath.
For upon his official receiving of the Old Trafford reins new United boss Louis van Gaal has a very important decision to make. One that has the potential to endear him to supporters, divide the opinions of the masses, make or break squad harmony and go some way to illustrating just what type of regime the Dutchman plans on inaugurating in Manchester.
Of course I’m talking about his choice of captaincy. Whilst there are those who flit on the periphery of candidacy - the likes of Michael Carrick, Patrice Evra and David de Gea - it’s safe to assume that Van Gaal’s finger will hover above just two heads; the ever-greying one possessed by the man he made Holland captain, and one which has remarkably seemed to grow back hair in recent years.
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If you’re familiar with the Dutch national team since Van Gaal’s introduction as its head coach then you’ll know full well that he and Van Persie share the sort of relationship which immediately puts Rooney’s claims for the armband under considerable duress. The 62-year-old’s decision to make the 30-year-old the leader of his experienced Holland side is all the evidence that is needed to back that up, and the way Van Persie stormed over for what seemed a poorly rehearsed high-five after bagging his first goal of the World Cup against Spain further painted their connection in a positive light.
However, despite Van Gaal's rightful admiration for the prolific frontman’s talents, it must be Rooney who is named as the successor to Nemanja Vidic with regards to United’s captaincy, not Van Persie. The 28-year-old may be guilty of allowing his temperament to get the better of him in emotionally charged situations, and there’s no doubt plenty of supporters who painful remember how he has been linked with exits from the club on multiple occasions in the past, but it’s the Merseyside-born forward’s passion and desire to see United succeed which are his most famous traits.
Over the years Rooney established himself as a natural leader in Sir Alex Ferguson’s setup, and was a beacon of hope in an otherwise bleak period under David Moyes. Now sitting healthily in the prime of his career he needs to be rewarded for his service moving forward, and given the opportunity to follow in footsteps of the United heroes of old who are fondly remembered for being recognised leaders in their own right.
In this new era Van Gaal is looking to kick-start Rooney is arguably of more importance than Van Persie thanks to his age and god-like status amongst the fans. The new United boss simply has to realise that though the latter may be his perfect captain, the former is the perfect captain for the club.