15 Reasons Why Wayne Rooney Should Be the Next Manchester United Captain
If Nemanja Vidic returns for United fully fit this season, all and well good. Irrespective of this, Sir Alex Ferguson must have in mind the Serb's successor.
That captain should be Wayne Rooney, not Patrice Evra, nor any other player.
United are in transition. With new players coming in and younger ones stepping up, there is a need for leadership and continuity.
Before Sir Alex retires, he should appoint his star player as captain.
Here are the reasons why.
Wayne Wants to Be United Captain
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Wayne has already revealed that he would love to be England captain, so you can bet your life he wants to be United's captain.
When the train was coming off the rails in October 2010 and he was reputed to be on his way out of Old Trafford, we can only speculate what assurances he wanted in order to stay.
There can be no doubt that he wanted the squad strengthening. Any fan would want that. Cristiano Ronaldo had gone and the weight was placed firmly on Wayne's shoulders—especially scoring goals.
It would be surprising if one of his demands was an assurance that he would be a future United captain, but that doesn't mean that Sir Alex wouldn't give him a nod and a wink about that possibility.
However, we can safely assume that, with Wayne effectively holding a gun to United's head (possibly the first and last United player to do so), there is no way Sir Alex could give or promise him the captaincy at that stage without losing face.
They will have had a tense relationship after that affair was settled, but Sir Alex will have been left in no doubt about Wayne's re-commitment to the United cause. He got himself fully fit and became the key player in that and last season.
Sir Alex and the Glazers kept their promise in the summer of 2011, bringing in De Gea, Jones and Ashley Young.
Nemanja Vidic was already the club captain, with Patrice Evra as his deputy. Rio Ferdinand probably wasn't considered because of his injury record.
Sir Alex would have been expecting Giggs and Scholes to retire fairly soon so Rooney would obviously be the next best thing.
Wayne Rooney has huge self-belief, which has sometimes been misplaced in some of his execrable behaviour off the pitch.
On the pitch, nobody could doubt his commitment to the long term United cause.
If he is ambitious to be England captain, he probably desperately craves being the next United captain.
Sir Alex Believes Wayne Can Be Captain One Day
OK it was a year before Wayne said he wanted to leave, but in November 2009 Sir Alex stated clearly why he thought Wayne Rooney could be a future United captain.
In that Telegraph article he gave his reasons why:
"You can see the qualities Wayne would give as a captain: his determination, hunger, desire to do well,'' said Ferguson. "He always tries, no matter how the team is playing.
"He always gives 100 per cent and these are wonderful qualities for a captain. He exemplifies the spirit of the whole team and other players can take that on board. So there are good reasons for making him captain."
Wayne's wish to leave will have irked Sir Alex greatly and it will have pained him more that he had to persuade him to stay, including sweetening his remuneration package substantially.
You can also see in the recent departure of Paul Pogba and the possible exit of Zeki Fryers that Sir Alex detests and resents what he sees as disloyalty.
No doubt the relationship was strained after the near-split, even though both parties gave positive interviews afterwards.
Sir Alex can be unforgiving. However, while it was possible to detect an unsurprising change in their relationship afterwards, it somehow seems to have matured.
When Rooney arrived at Old Trafford he was a lad. Now he is a father, who has recognised the error of his previous ways and taken more responsibility for all aspects of his life.
Sir Alex may feel as always that he has had a material and paternal effect in this respect, so why shouldn't he now consider him as the best captain.
He may have said he prefers older players and defenders, but he cited Cantona as a great captain, so why not Rooney?
Patrice Evra Is Not the Answer
Watch this video if you can bear to.
This one match was enough to convince me that Patrice Evra should never be United's club captain. United played like headless chickens. The only leadership Evra gave was at the wrong end of the pitch.
Which was where he was when Everton equalised to all but end United's title hopes last season.
He may be one of the best attacking wing backs in the world, but can display an extraordinary absence of responsibility when needed. He's also not the best defensive left back by a long chalk.
Rio should not be either because, although he played far more matches than expected in Vidic's absence, his back cannot be relied upon.
So when you look around, unless United are planning to bring in Wesley Sneijder or Daniele de Rossi, for example, Rooney should be the next club captain.
First Name on the Team Sheet
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When Wayne Rooney is fit he will always be the first name on Sir Alex's team sheet.
Some sports coaches take the view that you pick the team first and then pick the captain from that team.
United do it differently. They have a club captain and vice captain. If both are absent then another of the senior pros are likely to deputise.
But when Sir Alex looks ahead to the stability of the team and the players who will take it forward, surely Rooney's name will always be in the forefront of his mind.
And Rooney has captained United in the past.
Rooney Has Captained United in the Past
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On 11 December 2007, Wayne captained a young United team to a precious 1-1 draw that protected their unbeaten record.
He Leads from the Front
Every successful team needs leaders all across the park.
Watch Rio Ferdinand shouting and cajoling Vidic, Evra, Rooney, Van der Sar when he was in goal, etc.
But Wayne Rooney also leads by example.
I shall never forget the moment in the video above. A tense match against a fast-improving City side
Just when you need a hero, up pops Wayne Rooney with one of the best goals he has ever scored.
Over and over when the chips are down you'll see Rooney racing across the pitch: one minute up in attack, the next clearing a shot in his own penalty area.
He has learned to tackle properly some time ago; intercepts well; can defend and score with his head; puts in a shift, even when he's tired.
OK he wasn't so great against Italy, but he looked very tired and was given no room to play.
If he was United captain you would get 110 percent every time, like against Roma in December 2007.
Most Experienced Player
Wayne Rooney joined United as an 18-year-old in 2004. Within weeks he had made himself an all-time hero with his hat-trick against Fenerbahce—nearly eight years ago.
And he is still only 26.
OK I know that Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are first and third in the all-time appearances list and that Rio Ferdinand has more appearances than Wayne Rooney.
But when you're looking at a player who is likely to play in every United match if he's fit, Wayne Rooney is comfortably the most experienced, with 365 starts.
He is also fourth in the all-time goal-scoring list, despite having so many times sacrificed himself to the cause and not always starting as the spearhead of the attack.
So who would you bet the house on if you needed a result?
Soon to Be United's Longest Serving Regular
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As with the most experienced, again we can expect that Giggs, Scholes and Ferdinand will not play anywhere near a full roster of matches this season.
Wayne Rooney will be Sir Alex's "go-to" player this season.
Hard to believe this will be his ninth season at United. Surely the Scot will build the next United dynasty around Rooney. He would love to add Modric or Van Persie to the squad no doubt, but whether or not the latter players or any other marquee signing arrives, Rooney is the player we will look to for the next five years at least.
Who knows, one day he may achieve second place behind Giggs in the all-time appearances list. We would surely love him to stay for the rest of his career, setting an example to future generations?
Prepared to Do What the Boss Wants
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Once upon a time, Wayne would have thrown a "strop" if Sir Alex hauled him off.
With his recent maturity he has shown himself prepared to sublimate his desperation to play every minute to the shorter and longer term needs of the team.
He knows he needs to be as fit as possible for as many games as possible.
Nobody else works harder in training. Wayne is prepared to run and play wherever he is needed.
"The manager has said he will play me through the middle, so I'm happy about that. That's what I wanted," he said. "He may change his mind and whatever he says goes..."
There is no doubt the relationship will change and mature further if Rooney is captain. He will have his say, but respects Ferguson and will do what is best for the team.
OK plenty of people will point to this red card as evidence that Rooney will never change.
As a conspiracist, I wondered at the time if he did it deliberately to earn himself a summer holiday this year. Surely not? And yet it was such an innocuous kick, delivered with a sardonic smile.
The most telling statistic of last season was the fact that Rooney didn't get a single card of any colour in the Premier League until the very last match, with one yellow.
He has cut out his reckless tackles, to save his body just as much as his team.
He seems generally calmer, more in control and more disciplined. Maybe Ferguson told him he would have to clean up his act to have a chance of being captain.
He's become a dad and that seems to have been a contributory factor also.
In every way, including his self-discipline, in his play, positioning and selflessness for the sake of the team, he looks like a captain in the making.
Skill with the Media
As a Manchester United supporter I get any amount of grief from unbelievers.
Most of it is from people who aren't football fans anyhow and most of their gripes are about Wayne Rooney.
To hear them talk, you would think he was as thick as four short planks, inarticulate, crude and monosyllabic. They never watch or listen to him and have already made their subjective judgement about him.
I watched every minute of the coverage of the "wantaway" saga, especially on MUTV. We United fans watched in disbelief as the drama unfolded.
Sir Alex Ferguson's frank and honest interviews before and after were enlightening and eye-opening. The one interview that will remain in my memory is that above by a newly re-United Wayne Rooney.
He was considered, articulate, objective, honest and fair-minded.
I remember thinking at the time "this is the next Manchester United captain."
Staying at United
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OK who wouldn't love Robin van Persie to change his shirt for the red of United?
The Dutchman's case is a salutary one.
He has announced he doesn't want to renew his contract. He's definitely going.
So did Wayne Rooney but Sir Alex persuaded him to stay. Like Van Persie, he was unsure of his club's ambition.
Having stayed and signed another five year contract, it is reasonable to hope that Wayne will see out his career at Old Trafford. When he hangs up his boots at 35 or more will we be comparing him to the incomparable Paul Scholes?
When Giggs and Scholes have gone, Wayne can become the talismanic leader of the Red Devils. Perfect credentials to also be United's captain.
Has Sir Alex made him a promise?
If he does stay until 35, won't he look like a bargain at £27 million for 17 years' service?
Highest Paid Player
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No wonder Sir Alex was tickled pink after Rooney re-signed.
Let's hope the break clause never has to be exercised.
Assuming he is the highest paid player, that makes it easier to make him captain. There is no doubt the senior players respect his value to the team. None of them broke ranks after the contract debacle.
This also makes it easier when new players come in. United won't dare offer another player higher wages than Rooney, whoever they are. And incomers can immediately understand that the highest paid player is also captain—on merit.
Transition to the Next Manager
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The current and next Manchester United manager?
Sooner or later Sir Alex will retire. With Giggs and Scholes also retired, Wayne Rooney will be critical to the transition from one to another.
It is fundamental that the new manager should respect and accept the captain of the club. A manager of the stature of Guardiola would accept Rooney's quality and contribution without question.
Irrespective of this Rooney, with the respect and leadership of his fellow players can be a pivotal factor in helping the new man to bed in and also in attracting new top class players to the club.
Ferguson seems to have had almost a paternal relationship with his protege. That changed after the contract wrangle. The boy grew up and became a man. Ferguson welcomed back the prodigal son.
Sir Alex won't be the main factor in United's success over the next five to 10 years.
Wayne Rooney, especially if captain, could be.
Future England Captain
This young man talks like an England captain in the making.
There are many who think this could be true sooner rather than later.
Roy Hodgson himself thinks Rooney should lead England. Ferguson is a close friend of Hodgson and the Englishman seeks the Scot's advice.
So if Rooney should be England captain, why not Manchester United?
No doubt four years later he was exasperated by his star's determination to leave and even more so as that compounded his anger at the former Evertonian's irresponsible behaviour in the public eye only a month earlier.
Maybe the fences have been mended. Maybe Rooney is the best option anyhow.
Rooney seems like a reformed character; will always give what he can on the pitch; does what the Boss asks; coaches and cajoles his fellow players to get the best out of them.
If Ferguson decided on this obvious choice he could lay the foundations for the next era of United's success, whether or not he remained manager.
If he passed Rooney over next time, he could lose his star striker.