Who's next to captain Manchester United?
In Manchester United’s 130 year history the club has only had a remarkably small number of captains, 49 to be precise. As the reign of Nemanja Vidic is now over at Old Trafford, United are looking for their 50th captain and hopefully one that can, like so many other captains before, lead the red half of Manchester to another league success. However, who is up to that task, and more importantly, who does Van Gaal believe is the right man for the job?
The first obvious contender is Wayne Rooney. Had David Moyes still been in charge at Old Trafford, Rooney would have more than likely taken up the role given the pair’s renewed relationship last season. However, with Van Gaal in charge these loyalties are no longer there. In fact, it seems fairly safe to say that the Dutchman has proven that he is not one to deal in loyalties at all.
On Rooney’s side however is his commitment to the cause. He is a United player and, despite some hiccups along the way, his passion has never wavered. Many fans also believe he is the logical choice having been at United now for the past 12 years epitomising what many like to term as ‘a United type of player’. Additionally, many believe that if named captain, Rooney will finally have the responsibility he has always craved at Old Trafford and may ultimately play to his full fruition in front of the United faithful.
Counting against Wayne Rooney however is his sometimes negligent disciplinary record and more importantly, Louis Van Gaal’s relationship with his former Dutch captain, Robin Van Persie. After a successful World Cup in Brazil it is clear that Van Gaal can rely on Manchester United’s number 20 to do the business on and off the pitch. He is an expert professional and has club level captaincy experience already under his belt after captaining Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side from 2011 through to 2012.
Nevertheless, Van Persie also has his downsides, the most obvious of all being his susceptibility to injury. After persistent groin problems last term the Dutchman was side-lined for over six weeks, most crucially towards the closure of Moyes’s United campaign. It is hard to say whether a fit Robin Van Persie would have regenerated Man United’s season, however it is clear that, when choosing a captain, Van Gaal must consider realistically whether his Dutch striker will be playing every match.
Outside punters may like the look of either Darren Fletcher or Jonny Evans for the role. It is highly conceivable that if Sir Alex was still in charge and Fletcher had not been plagued by bowel trouble that he would be leading United at the present moment in time and the debate over captaincy would not be warranted. As it is, Fletcher’s health problems will more than likely count against him and I am sure that he himself is just looking forward to getting some real playing time after a lengthy absence off the pitch.
Northern Irishman Jonny Evans, on the other hand, is looking to step up and become the first choice Manchester United centre back after the departure of the former captain. Solid performances in the last couple of campaigns demonstrate how far the Belfast born defender has come from his shaky early days. A rather unsung hero in this regard, if you are going for an outsider, go for Evans.
With the opening game against Swansea City fast approaching it would appear that Van Gaal has not got a great deal of time left to come to his final conclusion. Whilst Rooney may have captained a handful of preseason games, so has Darren Fletcher, and an absent Robin Van Persie needn’t have been considered. Nevertheless, if Van Gaal’s first few weeks in charge has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. With Van Persie most probably side-lined for the match against the Swans due to fitness concerns, one must consider that this match may not present an end to the matter.
Evidently, Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney are the clear favourites for the role. Yet ultimately, one must consider what is best for United at this present moment in time. During United’s slight dip in performance circa 2004, club captain Roy Keane inspired them, yet again, back into form. Although back then the troubles were not as perilous as they are conceivably now, United’s third place finishes in 2003/04 and 2004/05 respectively, and a second place finish the season after, were still consider a devastation given priors in the modern era.
As a captain ‘Keano’ inspired passion in both the United players and fans. Wearing his heart on his sleeve he went into every game determined to win. It is this same pride and passion that Manchester United now need as they look to re-emerge after a difficult season. Wayne Rooney epitomises this above all, and if Van Gaal wants another typical United captain that puts 110 percent into every performance, the man he should not look beyond goes by the name of Wayne Rooney.
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