Paul Parker

Why Rooney doesn’t deserve captaincy – and who should get it

Paul Parker

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Louis van Gaal hasn’t been hesitant to express his opinion on matters since taking over Manchester United – on Tuesday morning alone he said Luke Shaw wasn’t fit enough and that the squad he inherited from David Moyes is “broken”, and he has said they shouldn’t even be in America for their pre-season tour.


But there is one subject he has been rather less forthcoming about: the captaincy at Old Trafford, which is expected to be awarded to either Robin van Persie or Wayne Rooney. I, however, do have a strong opinion on this.

I think it has to go to someone who commands respect on and off the pitch. I find it very strange that one of the players seems to be going around and telling everyone that he wants the captaincy. The key is to be awarded with such an honour, not to go around making your pitch for it and force it.

I want to see a player get it because he genuinely deserves it and commands widespread respect. It doesn’t have to be the best player in the team but someone you can rely on, on and off the pitch. That’s why Wayne Rooney doesn’t fulfil the criteria. He doesn’t tick all the boxes.


For Rooney, you wonder if getting the armband is just another bit of prestige for the CV, rather than because he loves Manchester United.

We are told in the press that he would be devastated not to get the armband but this is a guy who has asked to leave Manchester United twice and leveraged new contracts on both occasions. He hasn’t got any loyalty to the club. United felt compelled to give him such a huge contract last time as they had so much at stake in terms of status.

You want a captain who won’t cause any trouble and will held bind the squad together, and I don’t think Wayne Rooney is that man. He is a fantastic player for United but not a captain, not for me. He doesn’t deserve it.

And if he doesn't get it I think there will be a few toys coming out of the pram.


I would pick Van Persie – I think you have to go with him because he has captained a top side before in Arsenal and he did very well. He led by example at Emirates Stadium and also for Netherlands at the World Cup. He has to be Louis van Gaal’s choice, when he finally makes it.

Otherwise Van Gaal has been making his presence felt quite early, including questioning the very basis for United’s commercially-driven tour to the US. David Moyes never felt empowered to do anything like that – perhaps he didn’t want to upset Sir Alex or the powers that be – but his successor is free to do what he likes.

It is his way or not at all, and Luke Shaw has already felt that after being asked to train alone to prove his fitness, I think it’s a piece of man-motivation by Van Gaal, as well as having a practical basis.

Van Gaal wants someone with huge energy in the wide positions, someone who can get up and down all day long, even if they don’t have quality – that’s why he used Dirk Kuyt in the role at the World Cup, he can only run around.


But he is also testing the mental strengths of a player who has cost a hell of a lot of money, cooling his jets if you will. He’s telling Shaw, ‘you haven’t done anything yet, you’ve just got a big price tag around your neck and haven’t done anything yet to justify it’.

By taking the action he has, I think Van Gaal will make Shaw think about his game a bit more and focus on improving as much as he can at United.

His comments about having an ‘unbalanced and broken’ squad are less in the mind games department as they are actually true. David Moyes could have said exactly the same had he the courage to do so after inheriting a squad from Sir Alex Ferguson last season.


The squad he was handed had been getting by thanks to the Fergie effect, and once that was removed they were left badly exposed. A lot of the drive disappeared at the same time Sir Alex did.

That legacy still exists: United still need to reinvigorate the squad with new signings and all that will take time. A title challenge seems unlikely but they can certainly get into a position where a return to the Champions League is achieved.

He is gearing towards a return to the Champions League and that is where he wants to manage again of course.

- Paul Parker

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