Despite a victory at home to West Ham taking a little bit of pressure off an underwhelming Man Utd side, Wayne Rooney’s red card at Old Trafford was certainly one of the talking points of the weekend, and once again heaped attention back on the United striker.
Anyone who has watched Rooney play over the last few years will be well aware that the ex-Everton striker certainly has the propensity to act rashly on the pitch; but there is absolutely no doubt at all that behind closed doors, Louis van Gaal will be absolutely livid with his captain this time around.
The United skipper was given his marching orders in the 59th minute after a highly rash challenge on West Ham winger Stewart Downing, and left his team to cling on for three points that they desperately needed.
What was most curious about the dismissal is that it really didn’t need to happen. United were not on the ropes, with Rooney’s challenge preventing an almost certain goal. His thigh-high challenge on Downing did prevent a Hammers attack, but the reality is that had Rooney not made the challenge, the chances of United conceding were slim to none.
As I mentioned Rooney has been notorious for his volatility for some time now, which is one of the reasons why his selection as captain appeared at first glance to be an odd one. Captains need to stay on the pitch. Captains need to be cool, calm and collected in the heat of the battle. Wayne Rooney has never been and will never be any of those things. And that’s just fine – for a player who can influence the result of a game. But it’s not just fine for a captain. Whilst Rooney’s goals do win United games, now that he has been made captain, the onus on him to lead the team has been increased. It is impossible to lead a team from the changing room.
There are those that might write this incident off as a one-off; an event that can have an allowance made for it. But the reality is that the event is just another one symptomatic of Rooney’s character. It might not have cost United this time, but there’s every chance that it will cost them in the future.
The occasions when Rooney has let England down by being dismissed can be picked out quite readily – his stamp on Carvalho in 2006 and his kick against Montenegro coming immediately to mind.
It is situations like those, along with this weekend’s error, that make you wonder whether Rooney really is the best fit as captain for both United and England. Do the fans of these teams really want someone in charge who is so unable to keep their cool that they get themselves sent off at crucial moments? Do they really want to lose games because their supposed talisman isn’t even prepared to stay focused and professional for 90 minutes?
Don’t get me wrong, Rooney is a fantastic talent – sometimes. But his propensity for stupid, aggressive acts has been all too clear for too long, and his naivety and unpleasant aggression against West Ham just makes it blindingly obvious that the man is not captaincy material.
In truth, this has been obvious for a very long time, but was starkly illustrated during United’s embarrassing defeat at the hands of Leicester last week. Did Rooney galvanise his troops? No, he lost the plot along with them, aggressively screaming at his teammates and behaving like the sulky child that we’ve all seen throughout his career.
Given what van Gaal has likely sacrificed in his relationship with Robin van Persie to make Rooney his captain, the Dutchman could quite rightly be expecting a response from Rooney. Right now he’s not getting it.